Odyssey House helps victims of abuse

By By Constance Yonashiro

By Constance Yonashiro

The sound of children’s carefree laughter grows louder as young boys and girls enter the room to play with each other, oblivious to the adults carefully watching them nearby.

One of the kids is shyer than the others and looks around the room as if she wants to join them but is not sure if she can. The adults in the room notice and gently coax her to play with another girl.

Soon, she has a smile on her face.

“We do a lot of play therapy here, and what I’ve learned from them is that children are very resilient,” said Becca Brabel, who graduated from the U last spring and is working as a child development specialist at the Odyssey House.

The Odyssey House, located in Salt Lake City, provides programs for children, adolescents and adults in areas of treatment for substance abuse, emotional problems and social rehabilitation.

Brabel works with children from 4 years of age and older. Three times a week, she helps organize group therapy programs where kids are segregated according to their age, developmental level and emotional level.

“They come from all walks of life, from neglecting environments to physical abuse, sexual abuse…all usually from really crappy environments,” she said.

Brabel started working at the Odyssey House Day Care as an undergraduate after receiving an e-mail from the psychology department. Opportunities to do clinical field work allow psychology students to apply what they learned in the classroom to the real world.

“The university gave me the layout of the development of kids, but coming here and working gave me the hands-on experience I wanted,” said Brabel, who also completed her internship at the Odyssey House through the U’s Career Center.

The psychology department encourages clinical experience to expose students to the fields available to them, said Celeste Hill, academic advisor for the department.

“Field placement is a great way to get experience and to get their feet wet, either by doing research in the clinical aspect of psychology or just by working with people,” Hill said.

Currently, only graduate students work at the Odyssey House. Many undergraduates work at a variety of other sites, Hill said.

Andralyn Oliver, director of children’s services at the Odyssey House, said the focus of the day care is to provide stability for children by supplying support and including families.

“This is a hard job, but very fulfilling,” Oliver said. “We’re always so busy, and we are always happy when we have people from the U volunteer or work for us.”

For Brabel, the experience she gained in the 14 months she spent working at the Odyssey House is invaluable, she said.

“I love it,” she said. “Every day is a different experience. You can’t really prepare for it, and you have to act on your feet. You learn to have extreme patience. It’s great getting to know the all the kids personally and therapeutically.”

[email protected]