Liz Covey incorporates trauma treatment in counseling

10/15/2015

By Sue Cody

 

 

Liz Covey 1Upon entering, Liz Covey’s Astoria counseling office feels like an island of comfort. The waiting area is large, clean and crisply appointed. In the corner one sees a tiny kitchen and toys that hint at her practice.

 

 

Behind a sliding curtain is an area that awakens fantasy. A large swing hangs from the ceiling and in a corner, a small red and gold circus tent draws one’s eye. A plush lavender kayak leans against a wall, almost begging for someone to sit in it.

 

 

This is the world of a counselor who works with children and adults who have experienced trauma.

 

 

“The field of counseling is changing tremendously,” said Covey, a licensed professional counselor. She will soon be working with the county’s Trauma Informed Care consortium classroom at Warrenton Grade School.

 

 

“Trauma is the new lens through which I see all of psychology,” Covey said in an interview. She was talking about ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) studies and how trauma informed care creates better outcomes for clients.

 

 

“A lot of people have trauma, but can’t modulate their moods or anxiety,” Covey said. “Trauma describes the psychological process of something being stuck.”

 

 

When the ACEs study began (in the late 1990s), it was thought trauma was a rare condition. But it is a common condition in development, Covey said.

 

 

Now counselors are focusing on the critical years of brain development between conception and age 4. Parents play a crucial role during this stage of development.

 

 

“Children need consistent routines,” Covey said. “Children shut down when expectations change,” because of feeling overwhelmed. This is a challenge in Clatsop County because of cuts in school counselors and a high turnover in providers. It is stressful for traumatized kids to get a new counselor, she said.

 

 

“We need more school counselors and publicly funded jobs,” Covey said. “We need to pay higher salaries in rural communities.”

 

 

She would like to see a community center at a school to provide myriad structures that families need.

 

 

Liz Covey 2Connections

 

 

Painting a picture of current conditions, Covey said families are suffering because of less support. There is no safety net. In the past, people lived in multi-generational families. Now the parents are working so many hours, they are too stressed. The children are separated from the parents for longer periods of time.

 

 

Many children are experiencing attachment trauma. They don’t know who to trust. “Kids are not self-regulated at an early age,” Covey said. “Parenting skills are externally regulated. We have the ability to help kids regulate moods.” Children need parents and caregivers who nurture them.

 

 

“The kids are pretty well cooked by the time they get to school if there isn’t early intervention,” Covey said.

 

 

In her Sensory Room with the swing and circus tent, Covey works with clients on regulating (or soothing, rebalancing, getting in touch with) emotional or physical material in their bodies.

 

 

“The swing in particular is used for calming, since so many kids have ADHD-type symptoms that require them to be moving. Using the balance system in the body helps to make them able to focus, talk, relate, since they are moving, but calmed at the same time.

 

 

“Swinging is a natural movement for youngsters and babies. Young kids are calmed by it in particular.”

 

 

“We can work smarter and incorporate all we know and regulate through connection,” she said.

 

 

Successes

 

 

Through counseling, families can heal.

 

 

“It is most rewarding to see a family going from crisis to 100 percent functional,” Covey said. “Working through the family system forms good attachment relationships.

 

 

“The family feels like it’s a totally different world. The joy gets turned on.

 

 

“It’s extremely satisfying,” she said.