alley’s house offers counseling services to teen moms
By Jennifer Browning
Each Wednesday, Heather Lowrey, a licensed professional counselor intern, volunteers her general counseling services for the young women of alley’s house. She currently offers individual counseling sessions on an as needed basis and group sessions every other week. These counseling services are an addition to the variety of support services teen moms receive through alley’s house.
“The teen mom group is an open forum group session in which the moms can discuss any and everything,” Lowrey said. “Eventually we would like to add specific topics for discussion, but for now the moms get to pick whatever is on their minds! I believe some of the moms are a little apprehensive about counseling, especially in the group setting. There is a certain amount of trust necessary for groups to be beneficial, and the girls just need a little to time warm up to the idea. That’s part of the normal group process.”
Sarah, who has been enrolled in alley’s house for a year, said she also likes the group therapy sessions.
“It gives you a chance to talk about things that you need to talk about sort of at your own pace,” Sarah said. “But it gives me the chance to listen too. Sometimes I don’t want to talk, because sometimes I don’t like talking to counselors, because I don’t like feeling like the spotlight is just on me.”
Stephanie, a teen mom enrolled at alley’s house, said that she likes the group sessions because she has the opportunity to listen and hear other teen mom’s perspective.
“In the group setting, if you have a situation to talk about a lot of times, someone else is having the same problems, so you can see it from another point of view,” Stephanie said.
Both girls said that while they haven’t used the private counseling offered by Lowrey, that they are glad to know that the service is available.
“The private counseling has been a little slow to begin, possibly due to the limited hours it’s available or due to a mistrust or misunderstanding of the counseling process,” Lowrey said. “While alley’s house helps the moms with things like parenting and job skills, I focus on helping them understand their feelings, emotions and behaviors.”
Lowrey said that having this type of service available is imperative to the girls’ advancement.
“Many of them have experienced trauma and loss, may have witnessed violent crime or been victims themselves,” she said. “Experiencing these types of events at any age impacts an individual, however children and adolescents are especially hard hit. Without appropriate interventions, the fear and pain of these experiences can manifest themselves in rebellious and sometimes self-destructive behaviors.”
After several years in the corporate world as an accountant, Lowrey took a leap of faith and pursued a long time dream of becoming a therapist. She entered the inaugural cohort of students at Southern Methodist University’s counseling program in 2007 and began to pursue a career as a therapist.
At the SMU Center for Family Counseling, Lowery worked with individuals and groups of all ages on topics ranging from eating disorders to parental loss. Her postgraduate work has focused on trauma recovery and crisis intervention. She provided counseling services to survivors of rape and domestic violence as well as co-facilitated a support group for family members who have lost a loved one to homicide.
In addition to volunteering her counseling services at alley’s house, Lowrey currently counsels individuals and groups in the Incest Recovery program at The Family Place in Dallas.
Lowrey said she found alley’s house purely by accident, and feels honored to assist the teen mothers that alley’s house serves.
“I was looking to find more varied counseling opportunities and searched online for local non-profits. I believe there are pivotal moments in everyone’s life and the choices we make during those times can have lasting effects,” she said. “The teen moms have a difficult road ahead of them, especially being single moms in many cases. The fact they have chosen to enroll in alley’s house shows a determination I admire so much! I feel honored to be able to offer them any insight that may help them be successful in the future.”