Children’s Hope Residential Services has two Residential Treatment Facilities in West Texas: an all-girls unit in Levelland and an all-boys unit in Lubbock. Both facilities provide services to children that have experienced traumatic stress in their lives and, as a result are diagnosed with emotional disturbances. Children’s Hope works with these youths to provide them the necessary tools they need to cope with the trauma they have experienced so they can thrive and grow into healthy contributing members of society. The immediate goal is to allow them to experience normal childhoods and be able to function within their families as happy, ordinary children. The long term goal is to allow these children to grow into well adapted adults, able to gain good educations and careers, and willing to contribute positively to society and the communities in which they live.
In order to realize both the short- and long-term goals of treatment, Children’s Hope’s Residential Treatment Facilities rely on a model called Trauma Informed-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). The premise of TF-CBT is that behavioral disturbances are a result of unresolved Child Traumatic Stress. This trauma elicits emotions that the individual may not even consciously acknowledge. The individual reacts behaviorally to the emotions because 1) she may not be conscious of their feelings, and 2) she does not possess the skills needed to cope with what she is feeling.
With the use of TF-CBT, Children’s Hope begins by helping each youth understand how his behavior is influenced by his feelings and emotions. Along with the child, a therapist works on developing a set of tools to help the child recognize their feelings before they react. Relaxation and coping skills are taught and practiced to allow each child to learn that they are active agents in control of their own behavior. This is also a time when youth are taught vital relationship skills needed to create social support networks. Social support networks feed into a sense of wellbeing and resiliency.
The next step in the therapeutic process is confronting the youth’s trauma. This is a pivotal point in the child’s progress through TF-CBT, because it is a time when she must openly acknowledge events she would more than likely prefer to forget. At this phase of therapy, each youth is expected to talk in specific detail about their trauma, often abuse and/or neglect. This is a time for closure, when the child accepts the root of the most emotional events in their life, accepts that they cannot change what happened, and move on. The child choses one or more individuals she has come to trust to share her story with and in doing so makes a statement that her trauma no longer has any power over her. In the end, she has faced her worst fear, grieved, shared her story with people in her support network, and accepted that part of her history. She is then able to move on, placing her trauma in the past, recognizing that nothing terrible happened by acknowledging her trauma, no one shunned her, her world did not end.
The Trauma Narrative may be thought of as a milestone. It is a difficult task, and many youth struggle with the emotions that emerge during this process. Frequently, though not in every case, completing the Trauma Narrative can signal that the youth is nearing the end of their treatment. They may be able to successfully return home or to a foster placement. To that end, it is important that both the therapist and child is fully committed to the process.
For more information about TF-CBT click here.