Today, I am sitting in my makeshift office, otherwise known as my dining room table, reflecting on the past few years. They have been a whirlwind of deep sadness and tremendous personal and professional growth following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 12, 2014. My personal outrage at the senseless act of devastating gun violence became the impetus for becoming imbedded in the community as the Clinical Recovery Leader of the Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team, work that ended last month with the completion of our grant period.
I spoke publicly to my peers for the first time recently about the mental health recovery needs in the Newtown/Sandy Hook community during the ACA Disaster Mental Health Learning Institute in Montreal. There are three things I am most often asked about within the context of my work. I will briefly address them below and will be writing more in-depth reflections in the coming months.
First, what made you decide to do it? It was the right thing to do. I possessed the clinical skills to impact and direct the healing trajectory. More importantly, how could I not help when given the opportunity?
Second, how did you do it? Support, support, support in the form of ongoing support at work and at home. Ongoing peer supervision with a group of colleagues committed to providing the highest level of therapy to the Newtown community. Finally, I made a commitment to my self-care that included laughter, exercise, relationships, and balance.
Third, how are the survivors recovering? This is asked in many ways but essentially, most want to know how a community heals following a horrific communal tragedy. Briefly, the answer is slowly, with multi-level and complex supports and therapeutic interventions.
If you were at the ACA conference you heard ACA President, Dr. Thelma Duffey speak about The Impact Project created in response to her 2015-2016 American Counseling Association Presidential Initiative on Anti-Bullying and Interpersonal Violence, the Impact Project aims to publicly honor people who have left a positive impact on others, often times without knowing so.
The Impact Project includes a national social media campaign that gives space for us to share brief stories about the positive impact others have had on our lives.
As you probably can tell, I am mission driven person and counselor. My work must have meaning and purpose for satisfaction. This is a part of the reason I chose to work in the Newtown/Sandy Hook community. I truly believe that when you do the right thing for the right reasons, good will follow. This week I have received an incredible affirmation of my impact in the community. It came in the form of a book titled Joy, Peace and Love. It is a personally designed photo book, given to me by a group of parents whose children were deeply impacted by the shooting. I have worked closely with the parents and indirectly with the children since shortly after the shooting. It is beautifully filled with the smiling faces of incredible resiliency, laughter and healing.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.” Author Unknown
As counselors, we rarely know the impact we have in our client’s lives. However, we do know that we strive to lighten the burden of our clients every day; it is the work of a lifetime. I hope you know the impact you make every day.
To learn more about the Impact Project visit the ACA website, http://www.counseling.org/impactproject and the Facebook page,https://www.facebook.com/KnowYourImpact/timeline
Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor/trauma specialist and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She is currently the Clinical Recovery Leader and Trauma Specialist of the Newtown Recovery and Resilency Team serving the Sandy Hook/Newtown community and has a private practice. For more information:https://therapists.psychologytoday.com