Therapists’ corner: Dr Bernice Gabriel

Napier-based Dr Bernice Gabriel is a registered counselling psychologist and is one of our therapists at Kenzie’s Gift. She has more than 20 years’ experience working in child and adolescent mental health, and has been an invaluable supporter of ours for the past 3 years.

Bernice developed the Fostering Security training programme for caregivers who are raising children who have had experiences of trauma, abuse, loss and/or neglect, and who often have resulting attachment difficulties.  Bernice provides therapy and psychological assessments in Hawke’s Bay for people across the age range but works predominantly with children and adolescents.

We sat down with Bernice for a quick chat between appointments, and to find out just how vital our services are to tamariki and their whānau in Hawkes Bay

What first drew you to Kenzie’s Gift, and what’s unique about what we offer?

“I first heard about Kenzie’s Gift from a therapist who was supporting a family with a young child who’d been diagnosed with cancer and was seeking therapy for the child.  There are a lot of families desperate for support in our region, and I really wanted to be a part of that. I work with lots of families with a number of different challenges, and I was keen to offer more support where it was most needed.

“I support the work of Kenzie’s Gift because they provide such valuable resources and therapies to children and young people who are going through difficult times in dealing with death or serious illness.

“What they offer is unique – a source of support and assistance to young people whose grief is often overlooked in the shadow of what the rest of the whānau is going through.”

If we didn’t have the funding for Kenzie’s Gift, what would happen to the families we work with?

“Without the support of Kenzie’s Gift, many of the people, especially young people, I’ve supported with therapy wouldn’t have been able to access the psychological support they needed to navigate the difficult times they faced.  Without these vital and very few mental health resources there are likely to be longer-term and increased mental health and/or behavioural challenges.  Hawke’s Bay, with the floods and severe weather events we experienced earlier in the year, shows how many children and families there are out there with significant traumatic experiences who may benefit from psychological support.

“At a time when our health services are stretched, it’s organisations like Kenzie’s Gift who can step in to fill a need speedily and effectively.  And the services are free – that’s a huge benefit for many families in our region.”

What are some of the best ways to support people dealing with grief?

“People often process grief and trauma by telling their story/talking often about the person that died or who is ill.  Listening well is far more important than giving advice unless they’ve asked for your advice.

“Reach out and check in with the person, especially the weeks and months afterwards when other people stop making contact. Many bereaved people find it difficult to reach out to others so need you to take the initiative.  

“Help with practical, hands-on tasks if you can, like cooking meals, picking up groceries, or helping with laundry. Even small gestures like dropping off a card or some flowers from your garden can be a huge source of comfort.”