The play’s the thing as Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County expands its therapy services for youngsters.
JF&CS now boasts a larger facility in Morganville, and two new professional youth therapy counselors, Liat Haim of Monroe Township and Wendy Zagha of Oakhurst.
The facility serves youth ages four-18 from all backgrounds and religions and offers affordable sliding scale fees, said JF&CS executive director Paul Freedman.
Building a child’s trust through creative techniques like games, puppets, stories, and crafts is critical for therapeutic intervention, said Zagha, a licensed social worker. “They haven’t developed their verbal and abstract reasoning skills yet, so play therapy allows them to articulate their feelings and behaviors,” she said.
When emotionally distressed children begin therapy, many are asked to draw a self-portrait.
“In their first drawings, they typically leave out features like eyes, nose, and mouth,” said Haim, a licensed associate counselor. “By about the fifth session, as they begin to open up and express themselves, their artwork really evolves with a lot more details, plus they add family members to the drawing.”
Among the disorders faced by young clients are depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse. Most clients are treated for five months to a year, with flexible after-school and evening hours available. JF&CS is exploring the possibility of creating a group session for pre-teens. The agency also conducts home studies for adoption; a number of therapy clients are newly adopted from other countries.
“We have children who come from Russia and other countries at eight, nine, and 10 years old. They are struggling with language and cultural changes, which can be overwhelming,” said Haim, who said she herself faced similar issues when she moved to the United States from Israel 13 years ago.
As the therapy progresses, it has a positive effect on the entire family, Haim added. “The whole family dynamic changes as they become more aware of how to deal with each other. They understand each other’s needs better and begin to work as a team.”
Zagha worked with a 10-year-old girl who suffered severe anxiety about riding the school bus after a frightful experience during one ride when she was in kindergarten. She now rides the bus without trepidation. “It’s very rewarding to help them work through their issues and learn to function,” she said. “We get an amazing response from parents. They are so thankful and appreciative that we were able to connect with their child and motivate them to make positive change in their lives.”
For more information about JF&CS youth therapy services, call 732-774-6886.