Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

TF-CBT addresses the negative effects of sexual abuse and other traumatic events by integrating several therapeutic approaches and treating both child and parent in a comprehensive manner. The treatment involves individual sessions with the child and parent (or caregiver) separately and joint sessions with the child and parent together. Each individual session is designed to build the therapeutic relationship while providing education, skills and a safe environment in which to address and process traumatic memories. Joint parent/child sessions are designed to help parents and children practice and use the skills they learned while also fostering more effective parent/child communication about the abuse and related issues.

An Overview of the Center’s Therapeutic Programs 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):  Over the past several years, most of us have become very familiar with the term largely from media coverage of veterans returning home from active duty. Though less well known to the general public, PTSD also affects children within our centers throughout West Tennessee.

PTSD may manifest following any traumatic event that threatens one’s safety or causes one to feel helpless. Some of us may be able to reflect back on a traumatic experience and vividly remember a sight or sound that could trigger a memory of feeling helpless or threatened. But for many of us, we might not get stuck in that moment because we have the necessary tools to move on. The majority of children who experience sexual abuse, physical abuse or extreme neglect will likely develop PTSD. Such trauma takes place when they are the most vulnerable:  an innocent, trusting child. For many of these children, it is a dark place to remain in, and they do not have the resources to cope with the trauma. To a child who was sexually abused on a leather couch, any leather chair or couch may become a trigger and elicit a panic/PTSD response. For others, being in a bedroom with all of the lights on may be the only place they feel safe because the abuse might have taken place within a dark environment.

“No child is unreachable. We believe we can meet the unique therapeutic needs of children following trauma,” according to Thomas Mitchell, Director of Clinical Services for the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Today, there are many new and exciting treatments based on the Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) model for vulnerable victims of devastating abuse. Sadly, abuse has always been a part of society; however, due to the increase in public awareness, society is acquiring an understanding of the impact of trauma.

Our Clinical Services Program is housed within the Taber-Carter Child Advocacy Building. One of our counseling rooms is designed to meet the unique needs of younger children through structured Play Therapy. It is a wonderful play therapy room unlike any of you may have seen. Each item in the room has been strategically placed with purpose of encouraging an open dialogue between the therapist and the client through the use of playful therapeutic engagements. The play therapy room embodies the idea of “felt safety,” identified by many psychologists as a fundamental building block for trauma recovery. In one of the first steps of TF-CBT, the child and caregiver receive vital education about trauma and therapy; during this phase, the therapist wants to create the belief that hope and healing is possible following trauma. Therapeutic play within this structured environment of felt safety can often result in the achievement of this goal. Later within the therapeutic process, the therapist and child will reconstruct the memory of the traumatic event; this is critical in allowing the child’s voice to be heard while eliminating distorted thoughts such as, “I was partly responsible because I didn’t tell sooner.”

When a child is identified as needing this intensive therapy, there are assessments utilized to measure the severity of PTSD. At the Center, 84% of the children coming through our doors meet the full criteria for treatment of PTSD as it relates to child abuse. As the therapy sessions advance, the therapist continues to assess the therapeutic progress with the use of examinations; our therapists typically observe 75-80% symptom reduction within the treatment regimen.

Throughout the therapy, clients acquire the ability to express thoughts and emotions about the traumatic experience as well as healthy coping skills to regulate and calm autonomously. The therapy is centered in extinguishing the reactivity of the memory of the sexual abuse trauma or neglect where they felt unsafe and helpless.

“We experience extremely high success rates with our clinical program. We are empowering children and families to heal from sexual and physical abuse. I am so proud to be a part of this organization, I truly believe in our work,” said Mitchell.

The dedicated group of ten clinical therapists with the Carl Perkins Center’s Clinical program will be able ensure victims across West Tennessee continue to receive excellence in trauma-informed care.  

The therapy team is committed to making sure every child will receive services free of charge. While we recognize we often ask for your help in providing a better future to our children, we hope you understand the vital nature of our work in empowering the lives of our children.

Testimonials

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...
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