Last night I visited the downtown office of the Center for Contextual Change, an established psychotherapy organization that specializes in treating the effects of trauma. I had the opportunity to speak with Mary Jo Barrett, LCSW, a founder of the group and currently the Executive Director. Ms. Barrett is an expert in treating complex trauma, particularly the effects of repeated sexual or physical abuse. She recently returned from a trip to Vietnam where she met with members of the mental health community. They discussed the issue of human trafficking, a problem that has been marginalized in many parts of the world but is beginning to be recognized and fought as the cause of a great deal of mental health trauma and human misery.
Ms. Barrett, who is on the faculty of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, has a forthcoming book on treating complex trauma, which I look forward to reading. I first heard her speak over twenty years ago at the Midwest Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Incest in Madison, Wisconsin (where she has been a regular presenter). She and Bill Martin (of the men’s personal development center Victories of the Heart) also gave a very engaging presentation to our Northern Illinois chapter of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association several years ago, on working with men’s issues. I have learned a great deal from her and recommend the services of the Center for Contextual Change for any situation involving individuals or families impacted by severe or complex trauma, particularly of a sexual nature. We talked last night (with Prof. Janna Henning of the traumatic stress program at the Adler School) about the importance of therapist self-care and the support of colleagues when one works with people who have experienced such complex and often disturbing situations.
The Center for Contextual Change has offices in Skokie and Elmhurst as well as their West Loop location. Their facilities are warm, welcoming and beautiful, and they offer services including therapy at reduced fees for those who have financial difficulties. They also present professional networking and training events to the mental health and social service communities. They are a unique and priceless resource in our community, and deserve a salute. Their website is http://www.centerforcontextualchange.org.