Be the Hero of Your Own Story Explained, Pt. 3

Be the hero of your own story. Unleash your superpowers. That’s what Sunset Sip 2018 is all about. But, how do superheroes and superpowers connect to our mission at The Guidance Center?

Last week, Luis Maimoni, LMFT, provided insight into our theme from a board member’s perspective. This week, we enlisted the help of Patricia Costales, LCSW to help answer that question from her perspective as the CEO and leader of our organization as well as one of the founders of Sunset Sip.

Hi, I’m Patricia Costales. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the CEO of The Guidance Center. I have been in community mental health my entire adult life and have a true connection to the superheroes in our industry. I can relate to their stories. I believe that my role in mental health is to be a role model in many ways, not just for our clients and staff, but for our community. I do that by letting people know how I am the hero of my own story.

My Story and Our Clients

I had in many ways a difficult childhood. I wasn’t a happy child growing up, but with the support of my teachers, I found help. It made a tremendous difference in my life. I credit those teachers for offering help and I credit myself for having the courage to accept it.

Accepting help is one of the hardest things The Guidance Center clients have to do. It is scary to walk through the doors of a mental health agency and ask for help. Many of the small children that we see haven’t had experiences with adults who are trustworthy. It takes heroism for them to come in and share their experiences and fears with our therapists.

Batman and Community Mental Health

There’s a superhero character who I think has a real correlation with community mental health, and for that reason, he is my favorite: Batman. Although he grew up with immense privilege, he had a tremendously difficult childhood. He saw both his parents murdered as a result of community violence. While he had someone to care for him, it must have been a pretty emotionally isolating experience. His physical needs may have been met, but I doubt anyone read to him, went to his open houses at school or slept with him at night if he was afraid of the dark. I’m not convinced he got all of those nurturing elements necessary to a child’s development, especially as a child who experienced that level of trauma. I think we could have helped him.

Despite his story, he found the courage as an adult, without any particular abilities, to dedicate himself to saving others and giving back. I think there is a direct parallel between his story, the work we do, the staff we have and the clients we see.


Everyone has a superpower. Empathy is mine. It’s different from sympathy. It’s different from compassion. Empathy is the ability to really sit with what someone is telling you. Sit with their experience, put yourself in their shoes and try to feel what they’re feeling. It’s a different level.

And, it’s with empathy that we can change the world.

I would like to invite you to join us at Sunset Sip on Sept. 15 at the Hotel Maya where you can unleash your own superpower, and meet the superheroes Saniya and Christopher, two Guidance Center clients who will be there to share their story.

To purchase tickets or become a sponsor, visit



Talking Helps After Crisis

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One month has passed since the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the weeks since, we’ve heard threats of violence reported at our Long Beach schools and in numerous nearby communities.

When I heard the news about the latest shooting, as a child trauma and crisis intervention expert, I knew it was important to have a conversation with my sons. As a mother, I also understood that it may be uncomfortable or difficult for them to communicate their feelings about such a complicated situation.

As parents, it can be difficult to articulate our own emotions surrounding these crises, let alone lead the discussion with our children. It can almost feel easier not to talk to our children about it, hoping somehow that they haven’t heard.

We might fear that by talking about a crisis we’ll make it worse or more frightening for them. That’s not true. It is better that they hear about it from you and, more likely than not, they have already heard about it at school, from friends or on social media.

With the right tools, these critical conversations don’t have to be scary or intimidating. Keep in mind these three steps in talking to children after a crisis:

Share the facts, normalize their feelings, and create a plan…

Click here to read the rest of the article in Grunion Gazette.


Stand Up for Mental Health, and Save a Life

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When I was a kid, people would whisper the word “cancer.” Now, professional football players are wearing pink cleats on national television in support of finding a cure. We all know someone who has been affected by cancer. We cry with them, walk for a cure and share their stories with anyone who will listen. Lives have been changed and people have been healed because of their bravery and willingness to share. Their stories have raised awareness and rightfully caused us all to join the fight to cure cancer in some way or another.

We need to treat mental health the same way. Let’s talk about it out in the open. Let’s not keep it some dark secret. It’s most certainly not a shameful thing to have mental health issues or to ask for help. Especially when that help can provide healing and hope.

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The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that one in five Americans live with a mental health condition. And 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition. The impact of this is felt widely in our communities. NIMH also reports 37 percent of students with mental health conditions ages 14 and older drop out of school. 70 percent of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems across the country have a mental health condition.

At The Guidance Center, we provide comprehensive mental health treatment to more than 3,000 of our community’s most disadvantaged children and their families struggling with mental health issues or abuse. We know firsthand the challenges…

Click here to read the full article on

How to: Talk to Your Children after a Threat, Crisis or Mass Shooting



Paris. San Bernardino. Could it happen in Redondo Beach or in Los Angeles? The threat of terrorism closed Mira Costa High and Aurelia Pennekamp Elementary last week. Today, the entire Los Angeles Unified School District closed their doors after police identified credible threats.

When I heard the news, as a crisis intervention specialist, I knew it was important to have a conversation with my sons about why their school was closed; but as a mother, I also understood that it may be uncomfortable or difficult for them to communicate their feelings about such a complicated situation.

As parents, it can be difficult to even articulate our own emotions surrounding these crises – let alone lead the discussion with our children. But with the right tools, these critical conversations don’t have to be scary or intimidating.

Keep in mind these three steps in talking to children after a crisis:

Share your feelings, state the facts and create a plan.

How we react during a perceived or real crisis can either empower or inhibit our children. After you share your feelings it encourages youth to do the same.

Open the conversation by asking questions. What did you see today? What did you hear today at school? What was one of the scariest things you felt today? Ask them what it was like being at school (the mood, rumors etc.).

If the adolescent is communicative, asking open-ended questions will foster conversation. Keep in mind older kids will ask why, and it’s okay to say we don’t understand or know. If you have a younger or non-verbal child ask them to draw you a picture to explain their feelings. After the feelings are shared, state facts. This is an opportunity to reassure them, combat rumors and provide comfort. Lastly, create a plan but empower kids by allowing them to do this action step.

Talk about coping. Foster this by asking:

  • Who else can you talk to about your feelings?
  • Whose house could you get to if you couldn’t get home?
  • Who could you trust if something were to happen?
  • What resources are at school? Have you had drills or practices?

Wrap up the conversation with young people by identifying strengths and resources in the community. We can guarantee social media, peers and other influences shape perception. Even with limited knowledge about threats, keeping children engaged and informed empowers us all to feel healthier and less fearful.

At The Guidance Center, we help nearly 3,000 children and families each year through our comprehensive mental health treatment. We can provide expert insight on suicide prevention, trauma, crisis intervention, case management, community education/outreach, and intensive mental health treatment.

If you’d like to seek help for yourself or a loved one, head over to our locations page and call one of our clinics that is nearest to you.



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Patricia Costales, LCSW