Focus on First Witness: Making mental health a priority

Focus on First Witness: Role of mental health professionals

Part Five of our Focus on First Witness is about the role of mental health services.

After a child discloses allegations of abuse, there are opportunities for them to talk about them with mental health professionals.

One of them is Saprina Matheny, a licensed independent clinical social worker who owns Paradigm Therapy Services in the Lakeside neighborhood.

She told us the kids can sit wherever they want, but the spinning office chair is a favorite. “Sometimes we go on walks.”

Matheny has been part of the multi-disciplinary team at First Witness for about 15 years now.

“I think one of the changes has been a deeper understanding of the way that traumatic stress can underlie a lot of other mental health conditions,” she said.

She uses evidence based practices in their therapy sessions. And she can help address anxiety about testifying in court.

Another therapist who is part of the team is Alli Pikul, from the Human Development Center.

“Our goal as an agency and as a team is to help kids feel a sense of control and safety, and get some trust back in their life,” she explained.

As a mental health consultant, she provides insight and perspective when other members of the team may need a different approach.

“How do we help when we’re interviewing a hyperactive 3-year-old, or if we’re seeing a child shut down, how do we approach in a different manner?” she shared.

It means guidance, and space for starting that healing. HDC also offers therapy services.

A reminder that help in these offices doesn’t mean endless appointments.

“Not all kids who have experienced traumatic events need ongoing therapy. We are happy when we do an intake with the child, and we are able to tell the parents your child is recovering very well,” Matheny added.

But it can mean the beginning of the end of their trauma.

“It all comes down to why we are here. We all really want to help and be the reason to see the kids make that change,” Pikul added.

“That really fuels my commitment to keep working with First Witness. Because it’s a way to intervene in these issues early. And hopefully prevent the ongoing cycle of violence and help kids recover, and live their best lives possible,” Matheny told us.

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