Mateo first came to our counseling program as a 14-year-old. He presented as scared and withdrawn, but always extremely respectful. He was very careful with how forthcoming he was. The Director of Attendance and Welfare for the Sequoia Union High School District referred Mateo because he was involved in a felony case back in 7th grade. Despite his efforts in transitioning into mainstream high school, he was still being consumed by the court system, probation, immigration issues and strained familial dynamics due to the case. It was clear that he was experiencing difficulty leading to symptoms of anxiety, depression and complex trauma; however, he shared very little.
He came to session every week, but remained on the surface for months. He initially seemed to be in our voluntary program because he needed to be, as if he was involved due to fear of being reprimanded rather than to gain support and/or work on himself. Yet, Mateo would eventually complete four years of voluntary treatment. He was beginning to learn to trust again through the relationship with his therapist.
By the time Mateo was a senior in high school, he was a young man who had grown (physically, mentally and emotionally) into a model student, friend and son. He had successfully completed all probation requirements, built strong relationships and gained trust within his family again. He spoke of high hopes for his future with a gleeful and confident demeanor.
Mateo learned that trust and relationships are crucial in building a strong sense of self. He learned that we are all entitled to mistakes, but it is what you make of them that count. Mateo became focused on the positive aspects of life rather than the adversities. He utilized his traumatic experiences to catapult him into completing high school, creating strong relationships, applying to college and working toward to an EMT career where he could help “give back.”
During his final session with his therapist of four years, Mateo cried (no longer withdrawn), hugged (was able to trust again) and thanked her for her help and for being available (healthy sense of receiving support and having had it make a difference). He shared how he resonated with an injured eagle – he too felt trapped, in pain and out of control at one time. It was caring people, like those at Acknowledge Alliance that helped him see he deserved to be successful, happy and could have a second chance.