Throughout the month of November, we shared weekly excerpts of one family’s journey through sorrow and emotional pain to a place of enlightenment and new beginnings. Ben* and his daughters, Rose*, now age 16, and Dana*, now age 12, were referred to Yorktown; Rose had tried to commit suicide after her mother passed away two years prior. Following his wife’s death, Ben was self-absorbed and inaccessible to his daughters; Rose was devastated and unable to cope and Dana was alienated and struggling to find her voice. At Yorktown they found empathy and reassurance, as well as the support they required to regenerate their resilience.
Below is an account of Ben, Rose and Dana’s experience at Yorktown and what led to the change in the trajectory that they were on as a family, at a critical time in their lives.
“Because of the things I’ve learned through Yorktown, my personal growth hasn’t stopped. The empathy and compassion I have received from the counsellors has been stupendous. I am extremely grateful that Yorktown exists. Our story is a testimonial of the incredible value Yorktown Family Services holds for Rose, Dana, and I.” – Ben, Yorktown Family Services Client
Since the loss of his wife, Ben was finding Rose’s behaviour increasingly challenging. “I was struggling with the pain of my wife’s death and I turned my attention inward. I didn’t recognize that the girls were also struggling to process the pain of losing their mother,” he recalls. Ben’s girlfriend, Mavis*, began living with the family and this increased the friction between Ben and his daughters. Rose, in particular, was having difficulty and was unable to cope with the emotions she was experiencing.
After her suicide attempt, Rose was hospitalized for two weeks at St. Joseph’s Hospital. When she was discharged the psychiatrist recommended she, Ben and Dana all go to Yorktown’s walk-in. “The doctor at St. Joseph’s said that Yorktown is a really good place to go. I had never been to Yorktown but I had been to a therapist before. This was going to be different. It wasn’t just for me, it was for our family this time, and it turned out this made a big difference,” says Rose.
Beginning in June, the family came to the walk-in on a weekly basis. After five visits, they were assigned a dedicated counsellor, Maureen, for On-going Service which is typically 12 sessions. After seeing the family weekly for two months, Maureen recommended that another clinician be assigned to Dana. “I felt that Dana needed the opportunity to find her voice and this would be enhanced if she had her own counsellor,” says Maureen. Maureen continued to see Rose and Ben, sometimes together, sometimes each individually. In the fall, Dana was assigned her own counsellor, Naszrin.
In September, Ben began attending Mindful Fathering, a 14 week program dedicated to fathers who want to build their relationship with their children. The program supports fathers to better manage their anger and aggression.
It had been suggested to Ben by two separate counsellors in the walk-in, and also by Maureen and Naszrin that he participate in Mindful Fathering. “I was offended when the first counsellor at the walk-in suggested it. It is a program for abusive fathers and I didn’t take the suggestion very well. The second time, the counsellor told me that he used to facilitate Mindful Fathering. He said, ‘Trust me, this will answer so many of your questions. You will do great in this program.’ I started the program in September and it really, really changed me,” says Ben. He adds “I feel that all this pain and the roller coaster ride that I’ve been on these last 5 or 6 years is starting to make sense and I can help my kids. I can actually grow from this. This sad situation has now become somehow beautiful at the same time.”
During the time that Ben participated in Mindful Fathering, he also continued to have consultations with Maureen and Naszrin, sometimes alone
and sometimes with his daughters. “When Dad started going to Mindful Fathering we began to see the difference in him. He was paying attention and watching how we reacted to him. He would tell us, ‘I can’t control your actions but I can control how I respond, if you are doing something that I don’t like. It’s not your fault if I get angry, it’s my feelings and I have to control them for myself.’ He became much calmer,” says Dana. Rose adds, “Actually, I saw the change before he started Mindful Fathering, but I didn’t trust that it was real, at first. Therapy does help. My family has grown a lot from it. My dad has changed tremendously from it. He has become a really good dad for both of us.”
“It took me a good year and a half to fully absorb all this knowledge that I have gained; especially with Maureen and later on with Naz. I have to give huge credit to the Mindful Fathering facilitators, Rodrigo and Susan. Rodrigo really made an impression on me. What I learned from him influenced a big change. He offered me empathy and forgiveness for the same things. Thanks to all these people, I now have the tools that I didn’t have before and I continue to use them every day,” says Ben.
While attending On-going Service with Rose and Dana, Ben also attended Mindful Fathering twice, and Parenting Wisely, a parenting program designed for families who have children from ages 7 to 18 years. The family continues to utilize the skills they acquired through counselling; Yorktown’s walk-in clinic is available to them should they need support at any time, in the future.
We are extremely grateful that Ben, Rose and Dana have shared their story so we can communicate the positive change that they have experienced through Yorktown’s services. Their story is their own but they are not alone. Yorktown needs your support to continue to make available the mental health support we provide to families and individuals. Next Tuesday, November 27th, is Giving Tuesday. A movement, dedicated to giving back to charities that bring positive change to individuals and our communities. Please make a donation to Yorktown Family Services so we can continue to offer programs that can help others like Ben, Rose, and Dana succeed and thrive.
Yorktown offers an array of programs to support the mental health and well-being of individuals and families. Our walk-in clinic provides immediate access to service when clients need it most, with no wait-time. The walk-in can serve as a gateway to other programs and resources including: On-going Clinical Service, psychiatric consultation with the Hospital For Sick Children through Tele-Mental Health, an array of parenting programs, youth programs, and group programs. Yorktown also provides connections to resources offered by a multitude of community service and health service partners. The journey to mental and emotional well-being can be achieved through one visit, or a few visits, to the walk-in; it can include multiple services if required. All are accessed barrier-free; there are no fees and translation services can be made available.
Since 2007, over 200 fathers have completed the Mindful Fathering program and have achieved a high rate of positive outcomes. Impact in reducing anger and aggression has been demonstrated through program evaluation results. We are pleased that over the last year, Mindful Fathering has been recognized across the Violence Against Women sector as an important intervention in keeping both women and children safe.
Rodrigo Moreno, Mindful Fathering Program Co-facilitator
Lisa Kuuter, Mindful Fathering Program Co-facilitator
David O’Brien, Director of Infant, Child, and Youth Mental Health Services
Ruby Martin, Chief Child and Youth Programs Officer, YWCA York, Pennsylvania
Christen Coscia, Mindfulness Education Coordinator, YWCA York, Pennsylvania
Suzette Arruda-Santos, Executive Director
Karen Blake, Manager of Community-Based Violence Prevention Programs
This Year, Yorktown developed a partnership with the YWCA York, Pennsylvania, expanding Mindful Fathering into the United States. Yorktown provides training, program development and implementation support to the YWCA York, and partners who purchase the Mindful Fathering programs. Yorktown is implementing a Mindful Fathering community of practice (CoP) over the next year.
We invite you to participate in #GivingTuesday. Please give generously to Yorktown Family Services, and help Yorktown continue to bring positive change to the lives of individuals, to families and to our communities.