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Tuesday, July 9, 2024

‘What is the most creative response to this situation?’ Clinician and Artist Jeri Rabchenuk Shares What She’s Learned Over her 55-Year Tenure at Catholic Charities

The beauty of painting for Catholic Charities clinician and artist Jeri Rabchenuk is that when she lifts her paintbrush, she has the freedom to decide what her next stroke will be. Her greatest hope for her clients is that they learn to see life this way.

With 55 years of providing group and one-on-one therapy services through Catholic Charities Boston under her belt, Jeri is a seasoned veteran in supporting individuals’ and families’ mental health. Each time she meets with a client, she brings a beginner’s mindset–– modeling the compassion and non-judgmental presence which her clients learn to embody.

“I help my clients to view their challenges more creatively,” she said. “Instead of saying, ‘I am a victim,’ I ask them, ‘What is the most creative response to this situation?’”

Jeri and her fellow counseling services staff provide professional, comprehensive care for individuals struggling with a range of life’s challenges through Catholic Charities’ South Boston and Salem offices as well as home and school-based visits. All treatments are provided by master’s level clinicians and are supervised by a multidisciplinary team.

Having joined the agency in 1968 at just 24 years old, Jeri has noticed more and more people breaking the stigma around mental health by courageously addressing their needs and challenges.

“People today are more willing to ask for help, and there are now so many great mental health resources in the community that I can refer them to improve their therapeutic experience even more,” she said.

The beauty of a 55-year tenure, she says, is witnessing the evolution of personal growth and transformation of clients over time.

“I have clients who struggled with drug addiction and are now graduating college. One person, who had a very rough background, now has his own business and is considering going to law school. They found a sense of safety and security here and they now have the tools and positive mantras to live out, instead of negative ones.”

While Jeri said that her approach to therapy varies depending on the unique needs and values of each client, she and her colleagues primarily focus on the four key pillars of safety, security, grounding, and spirituality in their work.

“Spirituality means different things to different people,” she said. “We aren’t preaching religion here; we are preaching learning a higher level of thought. The brain must rewire its neurons, so we have to practice looking for the good and turning the channel to positive thinking. Without that higher level of thought, what do you have to move forward towards?”

What has kept Jeri motivated to stay at Catholic Charities Boston for five decades are the incredible people she gets to work with, she says.

“Our staff are so kind and so caring,” she said. “Everyone is working together to support these families, and that teamwork helps the clients to feel safe and grounded here.”

Beyond providing counseling services, Jeri and her staff seek to ensure that the clients they work with have their most basic needs met by referring them to other programs and services provided through Catholic Charities Boston. This may involve introducing them to one of the agency’s food pantries, assisting with registration for parenting programs, or connecting them to one of the childcare centers.

“Catholic Charities Boston is one of the most spiritually uplifting places I can imagine working,” she said. “We give clients tools to find hope and move forward towards a better life.”

Learn more about our Counseling Services here.

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