Former Give an Hour Provider, Dan Thomas recalls working with a family while providing services through the Give an Hour network.
The client was reluctant to seek services through Give an Hour for her and her children. She muttered to herself, “You are really something. You know that?” The school social worker had told her about the Give an Hour website, and sure enough, all she had to do was enter her zip code and indicate that she wanted family therapy. She entered her zip code, and several therapists were listed in her area.
A part of her was hoping that no one would answer the phone. Another part of her almost hung up before the therapist could answer. She was at her wits’ end with her two boys and was still grieving the loss of her soldier brother, the boys’ uncle. The therapist answered her call before she could hang up, he told her that she did qualify for free therapy as long as needed, even though she had never been in the military.
Ten minutes into the first session with the boys she was sure the therapist was regretting taking on her family. The 9-year-old picked on the 7-year-old and was silly/rude to the therapist. But the therapist seemed unfazed. The therapist had the boys ball up newspaper pages and had her make a “hoop” with her arms for the boys to play basketball with her. When the 9-year-old deliberately threw it over her head, the therapist asked: “can you throw the next one even farther?!” They all visibly relaxed when he was not at all disapproving of their little family.
The family continued with their therapy and slowly began to build trust. One day the therapist brought out his 5-year-old therapy dog, a beautiful Black Lab, Sebastian. This won the whole family over. The therapist showed the boys how to give Sebastian treats, telling the gentle dog that each treat was from a family member by name. Then the boys put the treats on the floor, the therapist said, “these are from strangers, so you cannot accept treats from strangers.” They stifled giggles when Sebastian looked at the treats and actually drooled! Then they picked them up and gave them to him, and “shook” hands with Sebastian on the “agreement” to never take treats from strangers. Everyone looked forward to a few minutes with Sebastian at the end of each session.
Over the next year of therapy, there were many ups and downs, and even some late arrivals and missed sessions, but the boys started doing better at school, and life at home was much better. Most sessions were family sessions, but sometimes the boys had to stay home while mom worked on her own grief and guilt to make sure it did not affect her parenting. In his practice, he always provided some pro bono services but deciding to provide them to military and their families through Give an Hour was even more gratifying and rewarding.