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Meet Lauren Jackson, Covenant House Illinois' Clinical Therapist!

A native Chicagoan, Lauren brings over 8 years of professional clinical therapy experience to CHIL. Prior to coming to CHIL, Lauren worked in inpatient psychiatry at Rush University, Chicago Children’s Behavioral Health, and The University of Chicago.

Lauren’s passion for mental health started when she was a high school cheerleading coach. She found herself working one-on-one with the young women, encouraging them to work towards their dreams. Since starting at CHIL, Lauren has felt her work with the youth has brought her back to that purpose, the population she always wanted to work with in the field of mental health.

In the first month of working with youth at CHIL, Lauren has seen a drastic difference in their willingness to reach out and ask for help. Initially, many of our young people were hesitant to meet with her. After just a few visits, however, the same youth are now knocking at her door seeking help. “I see this change as a huge symbol that youth are moving past the stigma of mental health that they are coming and asking for help”.

Discussing her approach, Lauren explains “I meet regularly one-on-one with individuals but also organize group sessions with mental health-based practices. For example, intertwining yoga and mindfulness activities on a daily or weekly practice. Other group sessions will focus on topics the youth told us they want to work on such as: what is mental health? How to cope with living with anxiety; Myths about mental health and coping with family trauma”.

“One young person, in particular, has made amazing strides in his decision-making when it comes to addressing his mental health,” recounts Lauren. “He is choosing not to self-medicate but rather comes to group sessions every week and openly participates without the shame he once felt about asking for help. He asked for more group sessions about setting healthy boundaries, and how to deal with rejection in the outside world and within the walls of CHIL. He’s now an advocate for other youth going through similar experiences, who might not speak up and ask for the help they need”.

Another youth has made progress toward handling their depression. “We worked together to see how her depression was manifesting in her ability to take care of her personal hygiene. The work we’ve put into her weekly therapy is now showing up in her daily life. While initially she was lacking self-care and had difficulty keeping her space clean and organized; through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy practices, she is getting up earlier and setting herself up to have a successful day. For someone who has been challenged by their depression for so long, it’s wonderful to see her progress”.

When asked how it feels to join the CHIL team, Lauren says “I think I’ve found my forever place! I look forward to providing access to mental health services for all youth who visit CHIL and to continue to provide services even after a youth moves out of the program, so that they still come back and keep building on their mental health progress”.

“One reason that Youth find themselves experiencing homelessness is often related to their inability to navigate mental health. When a young person has experienced any type of abuse, neglect, or trauma at the most critical part of their adolescent development, that can stunt their emotional intelligence which in turn blocks the ability to obtain life skills. It can also be difficult for a young person to find their purpose and identity in life outside of the label of a ‘homeless youth’, when they need to address their most basic needs such as a warm meal, and a safe place to rest. As a consequence, mental health frequently falls by the wayside. Our team recognizes their individuality outside of the reductive label of ‘homeless’ and provides the basic needs so the emotional needs can be met”.

In addition to her own youth-focused mental health services, Lauren is also excited about CHIL’s emphasis on educating employees about mental health so that all staff members will be better prepared to address the mental health concerns of our young people. “We recently started a mental health training with crisis intervention for CHIL’s staff and Youth Advisors,” she explains. “These trainings are equipping CHIL’s staff with the tools and information they’ll need to provide the best care to youth who are experiencing a lingering mental health concern of active psychosis”.

Lauren is currently finishing her Doctorate degree from Illinois School of Professional Psychology at National Louis University. She grew up in Chicago’s southside Chatham neighborhood.

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