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"Allowing a child to have a space where they are heard and listened to is so helpful," Family Therapist Traci Cocetti said.
As one of two family therapists housed in Cook Children's Neighborhood Clinics, Traci understands the uniqueness and value of such a space. "It's healing for people to know they're supported, that someone cares and is right here waiting for them," she offered.
Having only been with the system for less than a year, Traci is quick to acknowledge the reputation and word-of-mouth about Cook Children's was true and she couldn't be happier to be a part of such a fresh new chapter in our long story.
"The more I heard from others about how Cook Children's truly cares for the community and its children, I knew this is where I wanted to be," she said. "Deeply valuing every child's life and helping them get whatever kind of care they need is why I wanted to be a therapist."
Meeting the needs of others has been the professional path Traci wanted to take since her undergraduate days at Texas A&M University. Her inclination to pursue psychology in college was solidified the farther into the coursework she went because she has always been fascinated by "why we do the things we do and how the brain works." She never wavered and would get her graduate degree in clinical psychology from the University of Houston.
Prior to Cook Children's, Traci's work as a group therapist gave her a glimpse into treatment that can appeal to some patients because hearing from others going through similar issues makes them feel not alone. Yet, the one-on-one her current role provides creates a stronger bond and trust that results in an ability to dive deeper into what is most pressing for the child.
"Our patients are usually on a 6 to 12 week treatment plan; so that trust is important to make the most of our time and make meaningful strides," Traci said. "Ultimately, it's about the child and letting them know that I'm here and they are validated."
With this service offered inside our family's pediatrician office, a familiar and comfortable environment welcomes them. "The parents are more than happy to have access to a therapist, which can be elusive, and they are elated to have one in the place they already consider 'their' doctor's office," Traci explained. By adding behavioral health services to our Neighborhood Clinics, these locations set themselves up even more so as a medical home for underserved families.
The idea of integrating therapists in our clinics is a hallmark of Cook Children's goal of seeking to provide better access to care and making sure the complete health of children, including mental health, is a priority. "A lot of our families wouldn't have access to mental health services before because of insurance, location or a number of other things," Traci explained. "We get to solve that problem for them."
"Personally, I'm so grateful for our awesome leadership team," Traci continued. "Christina Reed, director of operations for Neighborhood Clinics, Dr. Vida Amin, our medical director, and Kelly Rand, the manager of patient and family support services, have all played huge roles in creating this program."
Positioning this care in a place that fosters early intervention means a great deal to Traci, as well. "When we can identify needs sooner, we can address them before it gets to the point where it's overwhelming and the child ends up in the hospital," she said.
"Looking at the role I play, it's very humbling to be privy to what goes on in these families' lives and to have an impact that'll mean a better life for them," Traci said. "I'm honored that they are allowing me to be a part of that."
"Fundamentally, I like to listen to people and really just want to help in any way I can, which is something that was, I believe instilled in me as a child through volunteering," she shared.
Hopefully, that same sense of being a 'helper' Traci retained from her own childhood could carry over into her own patients. There's no telling how many kids will remember a therapist who got them to the other side of tough times and then, decided to carry on this legacy of helping others.
Because when we each affect a child's life regardless of our role, the ripple effect will be felt for years and extend well beyond our walls, like the ones in the office Traci uses for her patients. At that point, it will be clear that so many of us can proudly say #WeAreCookChildrens and see what that truly means.