CYW Behind the Scenes: Therapist Perry Chen
“I love working with my patients. I love seeing their little and big successes,” Center for Youth Wellness therapist Perry Chen says.
Perry Chen, LCSW is a therapist on CYW’s multi-disciplinary clinical team of therapists, nurses, care coordinators and other staff. He works directly with children and families dealing with the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
We interviewed Perry to learn more about his work and the CYW Clinical Program. Below is the Q & A.
Tell us about a typical day in the life of Perry Chen.
My mornings usually consist of meetings with the team, phone calls, planning with patients. Patient care usually happens in the afternoon. I meet with kids individually and I also meet with parents and entire families. I usually have about 20 patients at a time.
What makes CYW’s clinical program different from other places you’ve worked?
The CYW model is unique because it brings together mental and physical health. CYW is multi-disciplinary – therapists don’t exist in a vacuum. Everyday I’m talking to other team members who aren’t mental health providers. I’ve had to train myself to think in a mental and physical health manner. That is benefitting our patients. We’re providing comprehensive care.
How do you as a therapist work with medical professionals?
CYW therapists work closely with the medical staff at Bayview Child Health Center (BCHC), our partner pediatric clinic located right across the hall from our offices. Once a week, we all meet for what we call Multi-Disciplinary Rounds (MDR). At MDR, our BCHC partners present referred cases and we ask questions about the patients.
The MDR process helps us to understand the patient and their family from both a physical and emotional health perspective. Sometimes this means explaining how emotional health issues may be influencing physical health, or even vice versa. As a team, we’re working across two different specializations to address both the physical and emotional needs of the child and family. Sometimes if a particular medical issue is addressed, we might see a change in the patient’s behavior or emotions.
Tell us about some of the patterns you encounter with patients.
Most of my patients are between 7 and 16 years old. Usually they’re here because the parents want help with behavioral issues the children are facing, or the parent is looking to help a child improve their mood. Parents are looking to reestablish a sense of security, safety and to improve mood.
Behavioral issues are common. That could be fighting or talking back. Or it could be the opposite. A child might be withdrawn – those are the kids who might fly under the radar. I also see children with problems focusing. That could be diagnosed as ADHD but it might actually be an avoidance technique related to trauma.
Do you ever have patients who are hesitant or resistant to therapy?
Some kids want therapy. Some are like “I’m fine!” There are tricks to get reluctant patients to open up. Sometimes we’ll play Jenga or I’ll do a magic trick. It helps to build rapport and relieve a lot of pressure.
What are you hopes for your patients?
I want my patients to leave CYW equipped to deal with future stressors in their lives. My job is to put myself out of a job.
What’s the best part of your job? What are some of the challenges you encounter?
The best part of my job is interacting with people. I love working with my patients. I love seeing their little and big successes. And I love working with the staff at CYW. Our team is talented, intelligent, friendly and much more. There are challenges too. You learn that there is so much you can’t control. Sometimes a patient has a really hard time seeing an alternative perspective. Sometimes it feels like progress has stalled.
What are your hopes for the treatment of Adverse Childhood Experiences?
My biggest hope is for the destigmatization of ACEs. There can be stigma around mental health issues, stigma around trauma. Stigma prevents people from seeking treatment that can alter longer-term behavioral and health outcomes. So much of the population has experienced something – we don’t have to be ashamed.