Mental health services for non-offending family members include screening, assessment, and treatment on-site or by referral. It is important to consider the range of mental health issues that could impact the child’s recovery or safety with particular attention to the non-offending caregiver’s mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other trauma history.
Mental health services are a core function of children’s advocacy center’s service delivery system. These services are critical to helping abused and traumatized children and their non-offending family members heal and resolve their victimization. Without these services, traumatized and abused children may experience an increased risk for additional problems, including substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, psychiatric and eating disorders and chronic health problems.
Mental health staff at CSH must demonstrate the following: a minimum of a master’s degree completed in a mental health field or currently a student in a formal graduate program in a mental health related field; and a license to practice independently or a requirement to attend supervision with a licensed mental health professional on a consistent basis and in accordance with the Board rules of the licensee’s discipline; and training on specific evidence-based treatment for children impacted by trauma.
A one on one time with the child’s therapist in which the child has the undivided attention of the therapist. This allows the therapist to address issues, which may be better facilitated in the context of an individual versus group setting. Time in individual sessions may also enhance a child’s functioning in group therapy.
Through this format, the family can grow in their ability to work as a supportive family unit and resolve trauma related issues.
Groups, usually composed of four to eight members, meet weekly with one to two group facilitators. The interaction of group members allows individuals to recognize patterns of behavior in addition to processing traumatic experiences in a safe setting. As members share their experience, they may obtain relief from particular symptoms and gain insight, which acts as a stimulus to pursue personal change.
Play, in the therapeutic setting, enhances a child’s sense of safety and appropriate personal power and is a powerful means for children to overcome experiences of victimization. Trauma focused treatment incorporates the use of play and other non-verbal techniques as a means of enhancing a child’s confidence, trust and ability to communicate in therapy in order to accomplish specific therapeutic goals.
Utilizes a variety of art media to assist in processing trauma related issues in a nonverbally. Art therapy helps establish a relationship, assists children with expressing and resolving their conflicts, promotes self expression, problem solving and confidence.
Sand Tray Therapy
Sand tray is a self healing process for the child. Children enjoy the tactile experience of touching, molding and shaping sand as well as letting it run through their fingers. Some children feel nurtured, calmed soothed or satisfied by using the sand tray. The child is able to resolve conflicts and traumas by externalizing and developing a sense of mastery and control when using the sand tray.
Involves reading and discussing books about situations and children similar to the child client. Children who may be unable to verbalize their thoughts and feelings may find them expressed in books. By using books, children can learn alternative solutions to problems and new ways of behaving. Reading about children similar to themselves may help reduce the child’s sense of isolation and may serve to normalize some of the child’s experience or emotional reactions. Concepts presented in books can serve as a springboard for discussion between child and therapist. Some children tend to open up to discussing difficult concepts following reading a book on the relevant issues.
Adult Support and Education
Non offending caregiver groups are an effective way of meeting other caregivers in a similar situation to you. Group members provide support and encouragement to one another at this difficult time. Participation in these groups facilitates learning about abuse issues, trauma, protectiveness and parenting. Groups promote learning new skills and tools for parenting your child and are a great way to reduce feelings of isolation and increase coping skills. All groups are facilitated by professional therapists.
The power of trauma-focused therapy is evidenced by this outcome:
After only 12 sessions at CAC, 52% of children no longer displayed post-traumatic stress and 71% of children no longer presented with depression symptoms.