Just “know me, call me by a name”
Dr. Stan Bosch (Psy.D.’09)
Funerals are never easy, even when it’s part of the job. For the Rev. Stan Bosch, a Catholic priest working the gang-ridden streets of Los Angeles, the hardest part of witnessing hundreds of gang-member burials was seeing that things never improved—until recently, that is, when he went back to school at California Graduate Institute (CGI), earned a 2009 Clinical Psy.D. from The Chicago School (which had recently acquired CGI), and began putting his newly acquired psychotherapy skills into practice.
“In my 23 years as a parish priest working in some of the toughest areas of L.A., I can’t honestly say that I saw changes in gang members’ lives,” says Dr. Bosch. “But in just the past couple of years doing therapy, it’s amazing the transformations I’ve witnessed.”
As he labors out of a small charter school attended by “the worst of the worst” (as described by the head of the nonprofit organization that runs the school), his work is never-ending. With more than 400 street gangs and 40,000 gang members—resulting in some of the nation’s worst youth-on-youth violence—Los Angeles has the dubious distinction of being the gang capital of the U.S.A.
Dr. Bosch, who was featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in August, is part of a relatively new anti-gang program called Gang Reduction and Youth Development, or GRYD. The program focuses on a dozen gang-reduction zones, neighborhoods where gang violence is at least four times the citywide average. Dr. Bosch, 54, oversees two of those zones, supervising 12 intervention workers and four case managers.
A primary goal of GRYD is to stop retaliations that often follow shootings, says Dr. Bosch. He supplements law enforcement efforts with counseling and wraparound services, and counsels families and gang members afterwards. Rumor control is also emphasized— addressing rumors about what gang is responsible for a specific incident. Because one shooting can result in as many as 10 retaliation shootings, the goal is to have a gang interventionist on the scene.
A Chicago School alumnus with a clear agenda, Dr. Bosch has already begun working with TCS-Southern California to provide practicum and community service opportunity for students.
“I want them to get a taste of the gang way of life, where so many kids are simply trying to survive from day-to-day,” he says. “Violence is diminished in neighborhoods where people are connected and know each other by their real names. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with proper training coupled with genuine caring and love.”
Many of our kids don’t know what they feel, and nobody asks them.
His passion is to get at the psychological hurts, wounds, and scars that inner-city kids have, which often lead them to join gangs and commit horrendous acts of violence on each other. He believes that urban gang members, above all else, need to be listened to and loved.
“It’s bringing kids together to put words to feelings,” he says. “It’s dealing with what’s called ’alexithymia’ in psychodynamic terms, the incapacity to put words to feelings. Many of our kids don’t know what they feel, and nobody asks them.”
People act out what they can’t talk out, because nobody’s really listening about how they feel, Dr. Bosch explains.
“It’s complicated with the socio-economic environment where people are in survival mode. I think kids get lost. That’s why they join gangs, a surrogate family, to be able to be recognized by others who ’will know me, call me by a name, die for me’,”
He refers to “ the chasm between the inner city and the outer city,” as a “structural sin” that needs addressing and urges people to “come forward in love and touch these kids, and be touched.
“These kids are hungry to be listened to and share their hurts,” he says.