RIDGWAY — Citizens Against Physical, Sexual & Emotional Abuse (CAPSEA) counselor Tiffany Palmer of St. Marys says providing a safe space for victims and survivors to heal has been the height of her career.
CAPSEA is an organization dedicated to providing free and confidential services for victims and survivors of abuse, crime or homelessness in Elk and Cameron counties. It also provides a crisis hotline and domestic violence emergency shelter.
Palmer, born and raised in Riverton, Wyoming, came here to attend Pennsylvania State University for human development and family studies, she said. She worked for Dickinson Center of Ridgway, conducting family-based services for around 10 years, and Full Circle group home in Reynoldsville during college.
Palmer is one of CAPSEA’s most “versatile” employees, she says, as far as services she offers. The majority of her days are focused on domestic violence or trauma counseling. She also conducts an “incredible years” parenting workshop with specific evidence-based programs.
The “traumatic incident reduction” therapy uses specific techniques that let the victim see they are the one doing the work, Palmer noted, while giving them a safe space to work in. CAPSEA was the first agency in the United States to provide all five levels of the TIR method for free. The therapy includes a one-on-one method focused on removing negative impacts of trauma, and re-experiencing past traumas in a safe and controlled environment free of judgement.
“We come from the aspect of empowerment,” she said. “The survivor is the one who drives the bus. The direction, assistance, support and guidance they need comes from them.”
In all of her professional years, Palmer says the trauma work she is doing is by far her favorite thing to date.
“I’ve seen the progress — people start and continue to heal during and after the session,” she said. “It’s actually visible to see that they are healing, and it’s amazing.”
Palmer has learned surprising lessons herself, too, she said.
“Self care is just as important for even the counselors, and everyone in the world,” she said. “Using good self-care practices at all times will make us better people in general.”
In order for counselors to be certified, they go through so many hours of doing these techniques themselves, Palmer says.
“I’ve gotten to walk through what our survivors and victims are going to do,” she said. “I have personally reduced my own trauma, too. I know it works from watching it and doing it myself.”
The goal, Palmer says, is to help these victims feel “heard.” And sometimes, naturally, counselors get attached.
“You can’t hear someone’s worst stories of their life and not develop a desire to truly help them,” she said. “We maintain healthy boundaries, but we try to provide ongoing and lasting support.”
Palmer noted that CAPSEA works well with community networks and agencies, connecting victims to other resources.
She also is very involved with CAPSEA’s emergency shelter, often being the one who provides counseling for victims and families.
“Thank goodness we can provide that safe space,” she said. “I’m really glad we are here.”
Throughout her life, all Palmer really wanted to do was help people, she says.
“Adding CAPSEA for the last six years of my life has just opened my eyes even more to how much people struggle, and the isolation of domestic violence,” she said. “It has expanded my mental-health knowledge, and added respect and sympathy for what people go through. I’m thrilled to be where I’m at.”
Contact CAPSEA at 814-772-3838 or visit www.capsea.org for more information.