Since the beginning of her career at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center 15 years ago, Vanessa McMullan’s work has focused on bringing healing to the youngest of our clients.
“It’s a misconception that little kids only have little problems,” says McMullan, LCSW, Supervisor at our Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center. “Some children have difficulty regulating their emotions and behavior, and some have had to deal with very difficult circumstances” such as divorce or loss of a loved one.
Additionally, the pandemic has impacted youngsters in profound ways. “They may not fully understand what’s going on, but their lives have changed dramatically,” she says. “They’ve lost their pre-school routines, visits with grandparents and more. The anxiety level is very high for both kids and their parents.”
In her work with children, McMullan—mom to Riley, 4, and Addison, 2— incorporates a variety of tools, including games, music, books and the Guidance Center’s organic garden. “Youngsters can’t necessarily sit still and just talk to process problems,” she says. “Using creative methods to engage them is really the hallmark of what we do at Right from the Start. It’s woven into all our work.”
Another important part of McMullan’s work is her role as Coordinator of our Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program, where she has helped numerous mothers experiencing postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
“Maternal mental health and early childhood health are so connected,” she explains. “We help these moms realize that they are not alone, they are not to blame and there is help!”
McMullan is grateful to her coworkers, both current and past. “Everyone on the team is dedicated to the work that we do,” she says. “It makes dealing with these difficult times so much better. We all really do have each other to lean on.”