How Do We Know When Trauma Survivors are Ready to Fly on Their Own?
TLC Guest Blogger: Jean West, LCSW, CTC-S, CT
In working with survivors of trauma, there has always been one difficult question: How do we know when they are ready to fly on their own? I have used the SITCAP® program with over 100 children within the last four years with extraordinary results. One adolescent boy sticks out in my mind. I met with him about a month ago for our debriefing session. His father had been very abusive to him and his brothers when he was little, leading to his incarceration. After our session, with tears in his eyes, he said, “You know, I have never really told my story like that ever before.” This boy has had at least five years of counseling from professionals, and in our first session, he gained a new sense of relief from being able to truly tell his story because I was a safe, curious witness to what he had gone through.
I could write for days on children’s stories I have worked with, but what I want to focus on is how I pull it all together and know when I am through with my work. I use the SITCAP® pre- and post-test (CAQ), which shows me how far their anxiety levels and PTSD symptoms have dropped. If they are still high in a specific area, such as anger, I will pull out more from the “One-Minute Interventions” material and dig further. I use play-based sensory interventions to go along with the program. For example, the Self Esteem Shop sells a tiny kit called “Think-ets Games,” which I use with families, individual sessions with children, and even in trainings. The kit consists of 15 tiny objects, ranging from an elephant to a wrench. There are several different activities you can do with this kit. The main activity I use is to take turns telling a story using the objects. One 13-year-old girl I am working with told the story of how lonely the elephant was and how much the elephant missed her brother and sister. This girl’s father had committed suicide over a year ago, and each of the three siblings have been separated, going from relative to relative, as mom is unable to care for them due to active substance abuse and homelessness. This activity helped me know where to go as a practitioner to further the healing process.
This is an example of a play-based assessment, like those that will be presented at TLC’s Training and Certification Conference in San Antonio, TX, Feb. 21-24, 2013. Everything from “Sensory Interventions” with William Steele to “Advanced Structured Sensory Interventions” with Caelan Kuban and Sarah Slamer will be offered, so any level of practitioner will benefit from attending. I am especially excited about Cherie Spehar’s new training on “Putting it all Together: Trauma Assessment, Practice Points and Trauma Integration” because that is where I feel like I am at in my walk with SITCAP® . Learning more play-based assessment techniques, exploring secondary wounding and its effects on trauma recovery, and most of all learning trauma-focused closure interventions that support the new survivor as they fly on their own! I can’t wait to go and hope to see you there!