Q&A with Callie Armstrong, Clinical Director of the Family Counseling and Guidance Center at Catholic Charities Boston
The Family Counseling and Guidance Center at Catholic Charities Boston offers professional, comprehensive care for individuals struggling with a range of life challenges. Currently the center has 20 staff members serving approximately 500 clients through its Salem and South Boston (Labouré Center) locations.
We spoke with Callie Armstrong, Clinical Director of the Family Counseling and Guidance Center, to learn more about the services offered and the rewards of working with a dedicated team of people.
What types of services are offered at each location?
The Salem office houses our administrative staff, as well as clinicians, our psychiatrist, and nurse practitioner while our South Boston location houses only clinicians.
The Clinic offers outpatient therapy, substance abuse services, and psychiatry. Many of our clients live with chronic and persistent mental health disorders that require long-term treatment. Our psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse practitioner on staff prescribe medication to adults and children; and about one third of our clients receive psychiatry in addition to their ongoing therapy.
The Salem office location has been strictly remote since Covid, so all of those clinicians are still providing telehealth, and our Laboure staff all work remotely and in person. At Laboure, we meet with many children for therapy, which necessitates the ability to meet in person. We found during Covid that telehealth was really challenging for some kids, especially the young ones.
We provide play therapy services for children, as they have not fully developed abstract thinking skills that would allow them to make sense of and verbalize their experiences and feelings. With play therapy, the play is their language, and the toys are their words. In play therapy, children can concretely manipulate toys to work through their experiences, emotions and thoughts. As you can imagine, it was difficult to engage in play therapy over Zoom, so we moved to a hybrid model that would allow for in-person sessions again.
How do people typically find out about Catholic Charities Counseling Services?
In South Boston, our services are often spread by word of mouth, or folks have lived in South Boston for much of their lives and just know the Laboure Center. Some even attended the Laboure childcare when they were younger.
The South Boston Community Health Center often refers individuals, as well as local schools. We have the unique ability to meet with some children in schools depending on where they are located and when they need to meet. At the school next to the Laboure Center, we’re able to meet with kids during school because we can pick them up, bring them to our office, and take them back to school; it doesn’t require any space from the school and the child’s needs are still being met.
Our North Shore office was located in Danvers for many years before moving to Salem 3 years ago, so a large number of our clients followed our clinicians to Salem. We receive referrals from the website, existing clients, DCF, courts, and outside providers.
What do you find most rewarding about this work?
I love being able to see where clients started and where they are now, even if they’re not where they want to be. I am able to witness growth in many programs at Catholic Charities; whether it is watching students move from level one to level two in ESOL, or seeing kids who were little babies in childcare, head off to kindergarten.
It is inspiring to be able to see that same growth in counseling. It is humbling to know that clients trust us enough to bear witness to their stories. To be with them on their journeys to healing, and witness their intimate triumphs and struggles, is a unique honor.
On a daily basis, though, the most rewarding part for me, I think, is our team. The staff at the clinic are unbelievable. Their jobs require that they hold the trauma and challenges of others, day in and day out. Because our jobs require the utmost confidentiality, many people do not know the heaviness that clinicians must carry. But they show up every day ready to do it again. They are dedicated to the mission and to our clients. They are extremely hardworking and optimistic. When you’re having a difficult day, being around positive, empathic people makes all the difference. I am lucky to work with these colleagues every day.