Emily flopped down in the familiar chair in “Miss Kim’s” office. She had been coming to the Center for several months and she felt comfortable here now.
But today Miss Kim had on her serious face.
“Emily, I need to talk to you about something important today. You know how the last day of school is coming up soon and after that you won’t go to school anymore this year,” Miss Kim began reluctantly. Kim realized how much she looked forward to her sessions with this resilient little 8-year-old.
“Uh huh,” replied Emily.
“Well, OK, coming here is sort of like that. You come here for a while and then you don’t come any more. So let’s talk about why you won’t be coming here any more.”
“I already know why.”
“Oh — OK, tell me about that.”
“Because I’ve been coming to talk to you for a long time and we talked about lots of different things and now the scary secrets aren’t so scary anymore, so I don’t have to come here anymore.”
Out of the mouths of babes…
Helping children heal from traumatic experiences
Emily’s comments give insight into the effectiveness of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), one of the evidence-based protocols for treatment used at The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center (DNLCC) and across the country. Emily’s response shows the incredible impact this treatment has in helping children manage the trauma of abuse.
Emily’s childhood experience had been a sad one. She was neglected, maltreated and witnessed severe domestic violence in her family. Emily had to become the “adult” to her drug-addicted mother. She thought if she could just get the house clean enough, maybe her dad wouldn’t beat her mom that night. She came to DNLCC with her grandfather. He had intervened in Emily’s life and took her away from the violence, but he realized she needed help.
At DNLCC, Emily received services so she could begin to heal. During the initial assessment, a clear record of what Emily had experienced was compiled. Emily had a medical examination and she was referred for further treatment. That is when she began talking about “the scary secrets.” As part of her therapy, Emily learned skills to help her process the trauma, while helping her manage the distressing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Emily’s grandfather also received support and skills to help him help Emily and to cope effectively with his own emotional distress.
TF-CBT has been proven to be effective and results in improvements in trauma symptoms as well as in depression, anxiety and behavior problems. It is currently being used successfully in community service agencies across the country. Mental health professionals who have seen its amazing results have commented that they now know how medical doctors felt when penicillin was introduced. TF-CBT is that powerful. Just ask Emily.
(reprinted with permission from The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center)
Phillip H. Redmond Jr.
Director of Child Care