The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.
Talent for Teens
When she was just twelve years old, Sarah Hubbell helped guide fellow youngsters down the slopes of Crystal Mountain. To this day, she still enjoys skiing, snowboarding, and working with children and teens. “I’ve always been drawn to the middle and high school ages because there’s so much drama. I was a teenager once too; I remember all the drama,” Hubbell said. “I like helping others understand teenagers. A lot of people are afraid to work with teens because they are hard to understand. They can be scary, but they don’t scare me at all.”
As a foster care worker at Bethany Christian Services, Hubbell worked with some of the most troubled youth in the Traverse City area. “Some kids were so messed up from their home life that they would bounce from house to house because no family could handle their behavior,” she said. “Some of them never even received therapy—that piece just fell through the cracks.” Working in foster care for five years provided some of her most memorable, yet toughest counseling cases. In particular, Hubbell recalls a young woman who, as a child was removed from her mother and placed in a foster home, only to illegally run away from her foster family and return to her mother. Years later when she was a teenager, “SWAT came to her home, broke down the door, and placed her back in foster care,” Hubbell said. “This girl had a lot of issues because she loved her mom and didn’t want to be adopted, but her mom basically kidnapped her and kept her in hiding for years.”
Trauma and Family Care
Although heartbreaking at times, Hubbell has found her experiences in the foster care system invaluable. “I don’t think I could be as good of a therapist as I am without it. Every case was a learning experience,” she said. Through exposure to legal issues, employment issues, substance abuse, mental illness, and other hardships, foster care prepared her to better people’s lives, especially those struggling with past trauma. As a trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapist, Hubbell now connects personal tragedies to unhealthy behaviors. “Everyone has undergone a traumatic experience in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one or a bad accident,” Hubbell said. “People don’t see the how the trauma affects them until somebody like me helps puts the pieces of the puzzle together.”
At Mental Wellness Counseling, Hubbell enjoys counseling families. By treating the parents and children as a holistic system, she aims to improve the overall family dynamic. To do so may require addressing a child’s past trauma or linking the parents’ social history to their parenting techniques. In every case, Hubbell says progress requires difficult conversations. “Today’s teens are really hard. Some don’t talk, don’t let anybody in, and don’t trust anybody. They have a hard exterior to scare people away,” she said. “Though it’s really hard to talk about the hard stuff they’ve been through, it’s the most important part.”
Whether she is working with children, teens, adults, or families, Hubbell’s hope for her client(s) is always to “get back to good.” The most rewarding part of her job is seeing clients make transitions toward better mental health. The young woman in foster care is just one example. During her last year of foster care, Hubbell learned that the woman was married with a child and living on a farm with her favorite animal, a horse. “Though she really struggled, she got to a place where she was able to hold a relationship, get married, and start a family,” Hubbell said. “After so much trauma, she was able to start a life for herself.”
Hubbell has learned that almost every life experience “sticks with us and changes us.” Her counseling career has not only impacted her clients, but also changed her own life for the better. “My experiences in foster care, a local mental health facility, and Mental Wellness have molded me into who I knew I could become,” she said.
Click here to learn more about Sarah or to schedule an appointment.