In spite of her youth, the new licensed professional counselor at the Gingerbread House Children’s Advocacy Center exudes a sense of calm and steady purpose that goes well with the welcome she said she felt immediately when she first visited the organization.
“When I first heard about the opening, I looked (the Gingerbread House) up and right away I knew it was something really neat,” said Angie Marquart, who is in her second week on the job. “To be able to offer a free service like this for families who have gone through so much trauma.”
Marquart (pronounced mar-court) grew up in North Dakota – which she describes as having four seasons with all the colors and being a “day trip” away from Canada.
She did her undergraduate studies at the University of North Dakota, followed by a masters in sociology there. After working for several years in the field as a statistical analyst (in Omaha, Neb.), she headed to the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis to pursue a masters in counseling and psychology.
“My sociology thesis was on pro-anorexia websites, where people would encourage eating disorders, and give each other tips on how to starve themselves,” Marquart said. “I became very interested in the psychology of that.”
Though she originally thought she would focus her counseling career on eating disorders, a practicum at an autism treatment center changed her mind.
“I worked with kids from age three to age nine, and I loved it,” she said. “I found out I really enjoyed working with kids.”
After moving to the Metroplex with husband Andrew, Marquart worked at another autism treatment center in Fort Worth during her internship – a required 3,000 hours of supervised counseling experience necessary to become a licensed professional counselor. During this period, Marquart was supervised by Dr. Roger Copeland of Waxahachie.
“I also worked at the Donaldson Wellness Center here in Waxahachie, one day a week,” Marquart explained. “To broaden my experience as a counselor.”
She continues to pursue educational resources in the field, focusing now on courses that will help her specifically in dealing with the cases she will encounter at the Gingerbread House. For instance, next week she will attend a Mental Health Forum designed for mental health professionals working in children’s advocacy centers throughout north Texas.
“And when I connected with that group, they immediately sent me a number of online resources,” said Marquart. “I am taking a course in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy that will be helpful in transitioning toward this population.”
Founded in 2001, the Gingerbread House, whose goal is “to optimize the investigative and prosecution process; provide quality legal, psychological, social and medical services to abused children and to heighten community awareness,” has served 189 children so far in its current fiscal year, which began on Sept. 1, 2012.
“Any child who has been referred for a forensic interview, by law enforcement or CPS or the courts, is eligible to obtain counseling services here,” Marquart said.
She identifies compassion as her greatest strength in approaching the job. “Just that drive to want to make a difference in their lives and help them get over that traumatic experience,” she explained, adding that the same focus will help avoid her greatest trepidation in the job, which is the potential of being overwhelmed by the evil in our world. “You just focus on helping them, not on the bad things that have happened to them.”
Her coworkers have told her that other helpful practices include using humor in the office, building on family relationships, and leaving work at work.
“And they – we – really rely on each other,” she added.
In a small organization like the Gingerbread House, of course, it’s a necessity to hit the ground running and to wear a number of different hats. Marquart schedules all of her own appointments, hopes to see six or seven clients a day, may be called upon to testify in court at any time, and assists with presentations to groups like one last week at the Boys and Girls Club of Ennis.
“We talk to the children about abuse and what to do if they are experiencing abuse,” she said.
Additionally, Marquart is setting up her own play therapy room, where she will observe play habits of young children to identify counseling needs as well as directing or participating in play to help steer the children to healthier social responses. “Young children are often unable to verbalize what they are feeling or thinking,” she explained.
To learn more about the Gingerbread House and how you can help, visit their website at www.elliscountygingerbreadhouse.org , or call Executive Director John Wyckoff at 972-937-1870.
(Written by Diana Buckley/Waxahachie Daily Light correspondent – used with permission)