In the seven years she’s been at The Child Center of NY, Tabatha Ferrer, LMSW, has been a volunteer, group leader, activity specialist, program coordinator, program director, and now a school-based clinical supervisor, splitting her time between Queens United Middle School and Edward Bleeker J.H.S. 185.
Tell us a little about yourself — your childhood, your interests as a child…
I grew up in Queens with both parents and a younger sister. I am the second youngest out of five. As a child, I was active and outgoing. I did dance in and out of school, attended afterschool, and participated in many more activities. I loved playing outside, whether it was jumping rope, playing tag, or going to the park. I thought I would be an actress or lawyer.
What brought you to The Child Center?
I honestly started visiting the Beacon 226 because I went to high school with an employee there. After observing and meeting new people, I wanted to work for The Child Center. I always had a passion to work with children, so coming on board was right for me.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m usually greeted by school officials and students yelling “Hello!” to me from different directions—which I enjoy. Every day is different for me, especially since I work at two middle schools (Queens United Middle School and Edward Bleeker JHS 185). Once I get in, I am either prepping for student groups, meeting with students, or in a parent meeting. I also spend time catching up on things and finding out what is coming up. There are times when students who are having issues and want to talk will find me at anytime throughout the day—other times students come to ask me where have I been! When I have free time, I help with the dance team at Queens United and attend as many shows and auditions that I can.
When I meet with students, it is usually for a period (30-45 minutes), and we discuss challenges, skills achievements, and many other things. Most of the time students see me in the hallway and will remind me we have a meeting coming up—I like that because it shows me the student is interested and enjoys meeting with me. (If I miss a group or a meeting, students will tell me they were mad they couldn’t meet with me.)
Sometimes it’s difficult to get kids, especially adolescents, to open up. Are there any particular methods you employ to establish trust?
For me, the key to gaining trust is being completely honest with a student from the beginning of the relationship. Being able to relate to a child and show interest in his or her life gains trust as well. I always let students know we are a team, and that they have a voice in this process. I’m not there to change them, but to help them build their skills and use their strengths to enhance their wellbeing.
Students often feel when entering therapy something is wrong with them or that therapists are there to change them. Giving a student the safe space to express feelings and not feel judged or misunderstood is very important. Discussing things students have an interest in and making jokes with students breaks the ice—I will discuss video games, basketball, nails, fashion… Sometimes showing students that you are human, and do things similar to them, helps build the relationship.
Would you share an experience with us that made/makes you feel that your work is worthwhile?
I feel that all my experiences are worthwhile. I think if a student/family walks away feeling better after speaking with me—or a student feels comfortable to look for me when upset—I am doing something right. There are students who have never met me but have heard of me from other students and say they would like to meet with me. That feels great. I also feel validated when parents let me know that their child goes home and speaks highly of me and the work we do together. It lets me know that I am making a difference.