A Young Psychologist Helps Girls Heal at NPH Peru

A youth psychologist at NPH Peru combines her two passions: children and helping others. Read how Andrea Chavez leads workshops aimed at teaching emotional balance.
February 22, 2020 - Peru

Andrea Chavez is one of the psychologists at NPH Peru.

Even as a child, Andrea Chavez Olivari demonstrated an interest in the importance of how people feel. The word “psychology” derives from Greek, meaning study of the psyche [soul], and it was this yearning to learn about behavior and the mind that inspired her to study psychology at the Universidad de San Martín de Porras in the Peruvian capital of Lima. It was then that she also discovered a passion for working with children.

Now at NPH Peru, where she has worked as a psychologist since April 2019, Andrea combines her two passions.

“I love it,” confirms the 24-year-old. “It’s exactly what I wanted to do, but so much more.”

She graduated from university in November 2018 and completed her clinical patient work at San José del Callao Hospital in Lima. “It certainly prepared me for working for NPH, especially the skills and know-how to develop the spirit to serve and help people.”

To work at NPH Peru, Andrea had to leave her native city, Lima, and travel 144 kilometers south to the coastal city of San Vicente de Cañete where the home is based. “I remember walking through the doors for the first time. I was so happy. Of course, I worried about moving away and learning to be independent, but I was in a role that I identified with—working with girls. I am now the psychologist for the girl’s area, where I am responsible for 37 children and adolescents.”

On average, she sees six to seven girls a day. She says that the main function of an NPH psychologist is to provide emotional support to the girls through counseling and psychological therapies. The most common mental illnesses manifest as behavior problems, depression, and emotional dysregulation, which encompasses all the emotions that stem from dysfunctional family environments where they once lived.

To help with this, in addition to seeing girls one-on-one, Andrea delivers preventive and promotional health workshops to improve the girls’ personal skills and help them develop emotionally in the community.

“Secondary aggressiveness prevention workshops have been implemented in some houses so the girls know and understand what types of aggression exist. In addition, we also teach tools and strategies to help them control their emotions, through role-playing and other techniques so they can more easily learn and use them. It’s encouraging to observe decreases in their aggressiveness and small improvements in their impulse control.”

During the time Andrea has been with NPH Peru, one of her biggest challenges at Casa Santa Rosa has been getting to know and evaluate girls from widely varying situations and backgrounds.

But, she manages to maintain close relationships with the girls. She admires that they are able to recognize when they have a hard time controlling their emotions and reactions; they try to improve.

“One of the most outstanding things that I appreciate and have learned in the NPH Peru family is that girls at certain times manage to open up and show you their inner world.”

She admits there are times when she finds the role emotionally exhausting, especially around psychological interventions. “Some girls tend to sabotage the therapeutic process, so you have to work first in adherence to treatment and have confidence in your skills as a clinician. Above all, I work to make them understand what they are feeling and living."

One of the workshops that Andrea most likes to apply is centered around intellectual disability where they talk about the comprehensive definition of disability detailed through psychoeducation. Through this method they understand everyone is equal within a family, only that each member presents different abilities and skills. It assists with team-building and reinforcing companionship.

Are there any other therapies which Andrea would like to implement with the children at NPH Peru?

“I would like to specialize in a third-generation therapy called acceptance and commitment, one of the most effective therapies for people suffering from trauma.”

For Andrea, working at NPH is a very rewarding job. Her role is emblematic of how we take care of the family, regardless of the difficulties that may arise. We focus on how to face problems, overcome adversities, and remain together as a family.

Please support the NPH family by visiting nph.org. Thank you for your help.

Scarleth Mendieta   
Communication Officer and Volunteer, NPH Peru




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