This is a summary of highlights from a presentation by R. Dandridge Collins, Ph.D., to housing counselors about how they can help families cope with the stress of facing foreclosure and how counselors can deal with the stress of foreclosure counseling. The talk was organized by the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition’s Foreclosure Prevention Task Force and was held on September 18, 2009, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Collins, a licensed Pennsylvania psychologist and ordained minister, is the author of the book, The Trauma Zone: Trusting God for Emotional Healing.
Counselors who counsel homeowners through the foreclosure process are counseling people at a time of emotional turmoil. The counselors develop compassion fatigue as a result of bearing other people’s burdens and hearing one sad story after another.
The threat of losing one’s home is traumatic. People who are experiencing overwhelming stress need relief, comfort, and reassurance.
Homeowners and others facing overwhelming stress often display five types of traumatic behavior. The types, and possible responses, are described below.
They can’t balance their emotions. Psychological distress causes many people to over-react or become numb.
They can’t tell time. Problems from the past and present seem to merge.
They can’t move. When people become overwhelmed, they become stuck, sometimes for years.
They can’t learn. Traumatized people tend to repeatedly make the same mistakes.
They can’t see. Some people avoid problems in the hope that they will go away.
Recommendations for Counselors
It is important for counselors to:
Homeowners who lose their homes need to regroup and rebuild. You can guide them to rebuild their credit and make better choices.
Stay within your own field of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to refer homeowners for counseling at the mental health center in your neighborhood if you see danger signals. If the homeowner has major depression, has significant changes in his or her eating and sleeping habits, or makes threats about themselves or other people or property, get the mental health center or other mental health providers involved.
Recommendations for Parents
Parents who have financial problems may sometimes become overwhelmed and act in unproductive ways that cause emotional problems in children.
Parents should remember to: