Growing therapy program for struggling Salem families benefits from training on play, trauma

Monica De’Rosier sometimes has sword fights at work.

It’s one new tool in the Salem therapist’s kit to help kids process trauma. With adults, therapists sometimes use a technique that incorporates eye movements, tapping or other physical and sound cues to engage both sides of the body.

For kids, the same effect can come from play that moves across the body: clapping, or sometimes waving a toy sword.

“It really helps absorb it into our body system,” De’Rosier said.

De’Rosier is a manager in the mental health program for Family Building Blocks, which is growing thanks in part to a $50,000 donation from insurance company Country Financial, spread over two years.

The money paid for her and her team of therapists to attend more training on techniques including play therapy, allowing them to better connect with kids.

“There are some kiddos that come in here that have experienced some pretty significant things,” De’Rosier said. “So sometimes, therapy needs a little bit more of a push.”

Family Building Blocks provides therapy to families and children who receive help from the nonprofit’s other programs, which include relief nurseries and parenting classes. The families the organization works with are often struggling with poverty and other significant life challenges.

Family Building Blocks began providing therapy in-house in 2020 after realizing families often weren’t following up on referrals to outside therapists. Leaders thought having therapists as part of the organization would make referrals easier since families already trust the caseworkers they know.

They now have five therapists, a majority of whom speak Spanish. Two therapists who are bicultural were hired this year. Therapy is free for families, though Family Building Blocks will bill insurance.

They now see about 110 families. De’Rosier said that may be a child, older sibling, parents or some combination.

The grant has allowed them to do more training on family relationship dynamics and trauma as well.

“It’s helping our team become very well rounded because we see the entire lifespan,” De’Rosier said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.