Hill trauma therapist treating those affected by pandemic

by Len Lear
Posted 11/19/20

It is no secret to anyone, of course, that the pandemic has exacerbated the stresses and strains already felt by people struggling with medical, financial, work-related and family-related issues. The …

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Hill trauma therapist treating those affected by pandemic

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It is no secret to anyone, of course, that the pandemic has exacerbated the stresses and strains already felt by people struggling with medical, financial, work-related and family-related issues. The forced isolation, unemployment, prohibitions against in-person attendance at schools, churches, etc., have caused countless cases of severe reactions, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

According to Chestnut Hill trauma therapist Valerie Ashley, who routinely treats the victims of many types of trauma, “The 'collective traumatization' that all U.S. citizens are experiencing as a result of Covid-19, unprecedented job losses and a worldwide economic downturn nearly predicts an escalation and intensification of people in our community suffering the effects of trauma.

“In the U.S., 70% of adults experience some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. This statistic accounts for 223.4 million people! … Many people in our community have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. These job losses have been sudden, unexpected and often traumatic. I am seeing more people who are suffering from the consequences of job loss.

“Recent college graduates are also suffering from the economic downturn due to Covid-19. Some have had job offers rescinded, and some have been unable to secure a first job. Many of these newly minted graduates are experiencing symptoms of trauma as a result, particularly those who have past trauma exposure.”

Ashley, 59, who was born in West Chester County County, New York, and raised in South Jersey, has lived in Chestnut Hill for 15 years and in Mt. Airy before that. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Temple University and an M.S. in Community and Trauma Counseling from Thomas Jefferson University as well as additional training certificates in both Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.

The pandemic has actually helped her practice to thrive. “It caused me to move all my counseling work online,” she said, “which for me was a fairly easy transition as I had worked online for many years. Interestingly, working virtually has allowed me to work with people all over the U.S. as we are no longer bound by location.

“Another noteworthy development is that more people are open to the idea of engaging in therapy because they can engage from the comfort and safety of their own home and because the distance created by tele-health feels more manageable.”

One of Ashley's clients, who asked that her name not be used, told us, “I found Valerie online via Next Door and am so happy I did. Before connecting with Valerie, I could barely get a callback or email returned by other therapists … In the short time I have been working with her, I have made more progress than I had with a previous therapist after almost a year. I couldn’t recommend Valerie more highly.” 

When asked for another example of the trauma she treats, Ashley said, “A client was referred to me who was suffering the effects of being in an abusive relationship with a man she married in her early 20s. When she was referred, she was 10 years into her marriage and still living in the marital household with her husband and 11-year-old daughter.

“My client decided to seek out help when she noticed signs in her husband’s behavior that led her to fear for her life and that of her daughter. Before we could do anything else, we had to tackle safety for her and her daughter. Leaving an abusive relationship can be very dangerous for the survivor. Suffice it to say, I was able to help my client secure safe housing for her and her daughter … ”

Ashley's husband, J.Wayne Lee, Jr., graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy in 1982. His father, J.Wayne Lee, Sr., also attended CHA but only through eighth grade because CHA did not have an upper school at the time.

When asked about the hardest thing she ever had to do, Ashley replied succinctly, “The hardest thing was to recover from the death of a child.”

When asked what people, living or dead, she would most like to spend time with, Ashley said, “I would spend time with my grandmother, Yvonne Filderman, and my grandfather, Max Filderman, both of whom were French Jews who survived the Nazi invasion of France. My grandfather was interned in several concentration camps for all of World War II.

“While he survived the camps, I knew him only as a very young child. During her husband’s internment in a concentration camp, his wife and my grandmother saved her children (my mother and my uncle) from being captured by the Nazis.

Many French people, my mother included, adopted a code of silence around discussing the Holocaust, which is why I never knew about my grandparents’ Holocaust experiences until I was an older teenager.”

Ashley and her husband have a son, Ethan, and a daughter, Isabelle (“Izzie”), both of whom are Penn Charter graduates. Ethan graduated from Colby College, and Izzie is currently a senior at The University of the Arts.

For more information, visit valerieashleycounseling.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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