Our bereavement program is called Philly HEALs (Healing and Empowerment After Loss). We offer a range of free support services for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one due to substance use.
The overdose crisis has hit our city especially hard. Much of our work in Philadelphia has focused on trying to prevent overdoses and drug-related deaths. But our work should not — and does not — end there. Behind every death is a vast network of family and friends that are left shattered. Loved ones often face a complex grief experience that if left untreated can lead to trauma and other negative health consequences.
Our bereavement support services offer a safe space in the form of peer support groups, grief counseling, bereavement support for peers and clinicians, and more. We approach our clients with empathy and a commitment to support them during this difficult time.
An ode to Philly HEALs: reflecting on nearly four years of growth
Please join us in honoring the beautiful souls we have tragically lost to substance use in the Philadelphia area through our ongoing virtual memorial site.
Psychoeducational workshops on a variety of topics related to grief.
Virtual peer support groups are open to any adult who is:
Grief cannot be “cured,” but it can be managed, processed, and worked through in counseling that can:
Developmentally appropriate counseling services that include:
Connect one-on-one with another individual grieving a substance use loss for support and connection.
Support groups for those who are interested in discussing and processing the grief and loss experienced through their work in the substance use community.
Many individuals grieving a substance use loss find purpose in sharing their stories with the hope that it may help somebody else.
Philly HEALs creates a wide range of free outreach materials in English and Spanish. Many regional and national organizations provide support and resources to individuals and families who have lost a loved one to substance use.
Kaitlin loves to say that she started her dream job in 2020 as a Philly HEALs Bereavement Care Provider, and is honored to have recently taken over the position of Program Manager. She received her MSW from the School of Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and has been a licensed social worker since June 2019.Kaitlin works hard to use her ever-growing understanding of systemic oppression and cultural humility to inform her relational approach to grief counseling. Being relational means that she prioritizes the development of trust in her client relationships above all else. She strives to work with clients in a way that honors the dignity and strengths of the people they have lost. She is also committed to anti-racist grief work by challenging ideas of what grief should look like. One way she does this is by accessing the power of community as a tool for healing, because no one should have to suffer alone. She tries to combat the isolation of grief by connecting her clients with each other individually, in groups, or at various organized events throughout the year. Before joining the Health Department, Kaitlin worked at a methadone clinic run by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. There she learned firsthand about the barriers to not only getting someone into treatment, but keeping them there and safe afterwards as well. The bonds she made with her clients at the clinic drive her to continue this work and reduce stigma around people who use drugs. She continues to try involving people who use drugs in Philly HEALs programming and leads a monthly support group for folks doing substance use outreach in the Philadelphia area.
Cadence blends humanistic and existential theory with narrative and expressive arts practices to help clients process and express emotions, explore their relationships with self and others, and learn new coping skills for daily life. Cadence holds a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Goddard College; she is an LPC candidate. Cadence worked with individuals and families in Northeast Philadelphia for her clinical internship during graduate school, and she focused her academic studies on grief and bereavement, trauma and attachment, and expressive arts therapies. After completing her graduate studies, Cadence worked as an Outpatient Therapist at JFK Behavioral Health, a community mental health center in Center City, Philadelphia. Cadence provided person-centered individual psychotherapy to a diverse client population; she worked with each person to build a therapeutic relationship rooted in feelings of safety and nonjudgment, and to identify what they would like to receive from participating in the therapeutic process.
Cadence believes that processes such as grief and bereavement, as well as growth and change, are ongoing and non-linear. She works to honor each person’s unique experiences, holds space for emotional expression without judgment, and understands that what is helpful for one person might not be for another. She utilizes a strengths-based approach to help each person use their own skills, values, and interests to create and establish routines of self-care, self-expression, and as coping strategies for the difficult emotions associated with grief and loss. When appropriate, Cadence draws from her background as an artist and writer, as well as her education and training in the expressive arts therapies, to help individuals process and explore their emotions and experiences through engagement in creative practices.
Suzannah is a trauma-informed clinician with experience providing therapeutic services tailored to the unique and specific needs of children and adolescents affected by the substance use of a caregiver or loved one, including fatal drug overdose. Suzannah is trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and incorporates a variety of evidence based therapeutic interventions into her work, such as play, talk, art and somatic experiencing therapies.
Suzannah approaches grief work with a lens of cultural humility and acknowledgement that the client is the expert in their own lived experience, while utilizing a holistic and strength’s-based view of each individual’s and family’s processing of traumatic grief and loss. Suzannah received her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Jefferson University’s Community and Trauma Counseling Program, and is currently an LPC candidate.
As a marriage and family therapist who has worked with people and families from all walks of life, Rachel has learned the importance of understanding how systems and relationships can affect a person's grief.
Rachel’s approach to therapy is one of warmth and empathy. Rachel understands that change and growth have their fair share of ups and downs and every client has their own journey. Rachel previously worked at Thomas Jefferson NARP, a methadone clinic in Philadelphia, where she got to know amazing people who influenced her approach to grief and loss. Through her work at NARP she gained an understanding of the complicated journey that is grief. Rachel believes that self-care and goal setting is an important part of mental well-being, and she incorporates it into her practice.
Hannah (she/her) is the Bereavement Care Intern with PhillyHEALS for the 2022-2023 academic year. Hannah is currently a second-year, part-time MSW student at University of Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Temple University in 2018. Previously, she has worked as a case manager in a domestic violence safe haven and as a hotline/intake counselor with Philadelphia’s domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines.
While everyone experiences loss and grief in their life, Hannah understands that losing a loved one to substance use or overdose can be especially difficult. She supports her clients wherever they are in their grief journey by meeting them with warmth, compassion, and humility. Hannah uses a strengths-based approach with her clients and is committed to honoring the memory of their loved one while reducing stigma surrounding substance-related deaths. She seeks to understand the nuances of her clients’ grief and life experiences, with attention to structural oppression, to better support them in coping with their loss. In addition to harm reduction and grief work, Hannah’s areas of interest include trauma-informed practices, attachment-focused and anti-racist interventions, and affirmative care for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Hannah started with PhillyHEALS in early September and will be with the team through June 2023.