Additional counselor and youth advocate will help Second Chance Counseling as it grows into its new space and expands its reach

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FARMINGTON — A Farmington therapist who believes all people deserve a second chance at a healthy, normal life has expanded her practice.

Last summer, Alisha Hawthorne-Martinez, a clinical social worker and drug and alcohol abuse counselor, started her practice, Second Chance Counseling, in an office on Locke Street. On Monday, she will see clients in a new, larger office on Apache Street.

She also will work alongside Melissa Tarazon, an adult drug and alcohol abuse counselor. Tarazon will work with adult clients who Hawthorne-Martinez previously was struggling to see.

Tarazon is certified in conflict resolution, marriage life coaching and other areas. After Tarazon earns her master's degree in marriage and family therapy, she will take on more of Hawthorne-Martinez's caseload.

"This way I can focus on my specific clientele: youth who cause sexual harm and who are victims," Hawthorne-Martinez said.

Hawthorne-Martinez also said the new offices will include a youth advocate to aid in the treatment of her patients.

She said that since opening her practice in August, she has worked with 37 families: 12 victims of sexual abuse, 10 clients on juvenile probation for a sexual behavior problems and 15 who were identified at home or in schools for sexual behaviors.

Hawthorne-Martinez wants to keep her practice's focus a priority. After all, she said that she is the sole provider of home-based counseling for young people who cause sexual harm to others in San Juan County.

"Having Second Chance allows us to keep the family unit safe and intact, when doable," Hawthorne-Martinez said.

When she began her practice, she specialized in treating patients with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. But increased rates of sexual offenses in the county raised her awareness of the issue, especially when it comes to the young people who cause sexual harm to others. She said people 18 and younger who commit sexual harm to others stand a 90 percent chance of not re-offending if they are treated early.

Hawthorne-Martinez will also expand her coverage area this month, by traveling to Gallup twice a month to work with young offenders there. Hawthorne-Martinez treats clients at their homes, and sometimes in their schools. On average, she travels once a week to their homes to work with both them and their families. Treatment varies based on the degree of the abuse committed, she said.

She explained that treating juvenile perpetrators and their families is a long-term process that involves a "trauma-informed" approach. That means employing equal doses of empathy and a well-rounded, dynamic understanding of the person's case, including looking at their home life, extended family and school or work experience.

Making home visits is often illuminating, she said.

"When you have youth that offend on other youth and they're in the home and you're trying to put safety parameters in place, it's a critical piece that you're there," she said. "They can come into my office and blow smoke for an hour a week ... (but) when I come into the home, I can actually observe and see whether the safety is being maintained."

The home-based practice is often beneficial to all the offender's family members, she said.

"A lot of the parents weren't aware (sexual harm) was occurring in the home," she said. "They are often grateful. Nobody wants sexual harm occurring in their home, in their lives, in their families. It's devastating. A lot of the parents are unaware it's going on, and when it's brought to light, it's traumatic. That experience, in and of itself, is a trauma that the family has to come together and recover from. So most all families are very grateful to have someone come into the home and work through all the contributing factors and family dynamics that are playing a role in the problem sexual behaviors and the acting out."

Both Tarazon and Hawthorne-Martinez agree that more has to be done to change the way sexual offenders' behaviors are discussed. That also includes using the words "offender" and "perpetrator," which Hawthorne-Martinez said reinforce negative ideas on a young person who, if treated, has a strong chance of a second chance at a healthy, normal life.

"There's a lot of stigma attached to those types of behaviors and the people who are responsible for them," Tarazon said.

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

More info

What: Second Chance Counseling

Where: 719 W. Apache St. in Farmington

Hours: By appointment only

More info: Call 505-427-1621 or email to 2ndchancecounselingservices@gmail.com.

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