Ann Abell PictureAnn Abell joined SCAN’s Circle Preschool Program in August 2019 as the Clinical Coordinator. In this role, she manages the clinical aspects of SCAN’s therapeutic preschool program including overseeing therapeutic services in the classroom setting, providing one on one mental health sessions with children and caregivers, and conducting assessments when children are referred to the program. We are grateful to have Ann’s expertise, organization, and heart for children and families as part of the SCAN team.

How did you first get involved with SCAN?
I joined the Greater Richmond Trauma Informed Community Network in 2017 and also became a committee member for the brief screening tool committee. Though I was currently a school-based clinician the mission of this committee to increase comfort and improve techniques for screening children for trauma was of significant professional interest. I have followed the work at SCAN since I graduated from VCU with my Masters of Social Work in 2006.

What has your life/work experience been that brought you to SCAN?
I graduated from the VCU School of Social Work in 2006 with my MSW Clinical Concentration. Prior to graduate school and after graduate school completion, I worked in various Residential Treatment Centers for children and adolescents providing direct care as a unit counselor and then as a clinician providing various types of clinical services to address mental health symptoms. Early on in my work it was apparent that a majority of my clients had experienced trauma, abuse and neglect in their childhood. These traumas had been unidentified and therefore unaddressed as they related to the treatment plan and support for my clients. My passion for children whom have experienced various Adervse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), their strengths and resilience began while working in these Residential Settings. The memories and experiences my clients shared with me in sessions were an honor to hold to allow them to learn how to heal. Through these intense clinical experiences early on in my career I decided to frame my professional development and continuing education and training around the best practices to provide play-based trauma-informed client-centered interventions to children, adolescents and their families. My recent clinical work prior to joining SCAN was providing school-based mental health services, program development and clinical supervision with Elk Hill in various underserved rural areas school districts. The exposure to the barriers and lack of services in rural areas combined with my previous urban work experiences further inspired my desire to advocate for children and families experiencing various stressors, trauma and isolation. I am excited to be a part of SCAN and the Circle Preschool Program. 

What inspires you to stay involved with your work at SCAN?
It has been a privilege to work with the children and caregivers at Circle Preschool and witness their learning, growth and progress. There are many wonderful moments when children verbalize their feelings, make friendships and master tasks they previously were unable to even attempt when we first began working with them. The resilience and sense of humor of many of our kids is remarkable and inspiring to our team.

Is there anything you wish other people knew about SCAN?
The creativity, dedication and commitment of the staff to the mission of SCAN is inspiring. There are so many wonderful stories of healing and collaboration between SCAN staff and families. SCAN works diligently to eliminate barriers through their collaboration within SCAN’s programs, with families we serve and with community partners.  

What are any challenges you have faced in your work with SCAN?
Circle Preschool works with young children whom have various levels of exposure to stressors and traumas. Our team has worked diligently to convert our program to virtual platforms to support parents and children during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We researched and developed techniques to meet the needs of young children quickly as this population is rarely provided services via Telehealth or virtual platforms. The energy and innovative ideas our team has developed has been challenging, yet also very rewarding.  

What has been the best experience with SCAN so far?
The best experience I have had at SCAN is to witness the Circle Preschool children display excitement, joy and development of friendships that have now carried over to a virtual platform.  The joy and excitement they display when they play together at school and virtually is incredible to witness.

Do you have any goals or hopes for the next year with SCAN?
I am thrilled to have completed Level One Theraplay Training in February 2020 and have a strong interest in implementing this treatment modality for families of Circle Preschool.    

Are you involved with any other community organizations, hobbies, or activities?
I am an active member of the Virginia Play Therapy Association. My family and I love animals! We have 2 dogs, a kitten and fish that we spend lots of time with while at home. We enjoy the outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing and gardening. I am the mother to three beautiful and active children, whom are involved in various sports and activities. My husband and I volunteer through coaching, conducting registration and providing support to these local youth community organizations in our area.  

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
I have always had a passion for animals and their healing power physically and emotionally since I was very young. I previously rode and trained horses throughout my adolescence into adulthood before I became a mother. My equestrian experiences ranged from 4-H clubs and conferences to Quarter Horse Association competitions to riding on the equestrian team for Virginia Tech during my undergraduate studies. After the completion of my Bachelor’s degree in psychology I pursued certification as an Advanced Therapeutic Horseback Riding instructor through PATH. I attend a 6 weeks course in Texas to complete this certification. I provided therapeutic riding services in Houston, Texas at a center for individuals of all ages with various emotional and physical needs s prior to enrolling in graduate school for my MSW at VCU.

Learn more about SCAN’s Circle Preschool Program


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