Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Play Therapy Therapist Story

As a trauma therapist specializing in sexual abuse, I often notice people attempting to avoid discussing topics relative to my career. The most common responses are: “How on earth do you deal with that?” or “I just couldn’t handle it.” My perspective is quite the opposite. Most people believe I am exposed to the atrocities of hurting the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. The truth is, I have the honor of bearing witness to the healing of some of the most resilient and remarkable children. It is certainly not a burden but more of a privilege to witness the strength of the children we serve. One experience that stuck with me was when I received a thank you card from an eight-year-old boy following the completion of therapy. It was my second case at the Center; the authenticity of the card’s message enhanced the passion for the work in my career. The child was the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by an adult male. Prior to therapy, he was suffering from night terrors, bed wetting, severe anxiety and depression. The child was living in a constant state of fear. His behavioral patterns at school caused him to frequent the Principal’s office. He had lost interest in sports and activities with friends. His mother was at a loss on how to respond to his challenging behavior. He was a very strong child, yet he did not possess the necessary coping skills to overcome the sexual abuse. Following seven months of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the child was sleeping well at night, had gone 3 months without wetting the bed, felt generally content, re-attached with family and engaged in social activities again. Most importantly, he felt safe. His behavioral patterns at school were stable, and his grades dramatically improved. Prior to cognitive engagement, the child verbalized that he thought he was weird and gross for being a victim of sexual abuse. We performed educational activities pertaining to sexual abuse during which he learned about a famous MLB pitcher R.A. Dickey. He had also experienced sexual abuse and overcame the experience through therapy and support. Dickey even wrote a book, Wherever I Wind Up, which depicted some of the inaccurate and unhelpful thoughts he experienced following sexual abuse; it also chronicled his journey through PTSD recovery. In the final therapy session, the child provided me with a thank-you card with the message “Thank you for helping me tell my mom what happened and to get it off my mind, thank you.” I cannot describe the emotional strength I received from the card. When people tell me, “I couldn’t do your job; I would just get so depressed;” they don’t understand the joy that comes with observing the strength and resilience of these awesome kids with whom I am blessed to work. It is an honor for me to be able to watch their bravery and courage throughout the healing process of therapy. If we could take before and after photos of our children, in the place of slumped shoulders, tears and insecurity, you could see broad shoulders, genuine smiles and confidence radiating from their faces. 

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