This article was originally published on September 9, 2021 by MontcoToday.
By Jennifer Barnett
The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth provides trauma therapy to residents of Montgomery County who have been victims of a crime or crimes at no cost to the clients we serve, writes Jennifer Barnett, a Mobile Therapist at The Lincoln Center.
The therapists in our agency are trauma-certified mobile therapists and art therapists who are friendly, empathic, and compassionate people dedicated to their work.
While TLC serves clients of all ages, this article focuses on the the care of TLC’s youngest clients, looking at why therapy is important.
The definition of trauma is the effect of an event, experience, or exposure to a traumatic or stressful circumstance on a person.
Trauma manifests itself in various ways because of how it can manifest in a person’s life.
Trauma can cause a person to have negative thoughts and to exhibit certain behaviors to express their pain. These are both called trauma responses.
When working with a client to identify an adverse experience, there are three ways to gain insight:
- Clinical Interviews
- Standardized Measures
- Behavioral Observations
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, there are signs of trauma and ADHD in children which are similar and sometimes difficult to distinguish at first glance.
Receiving training on trauma-informed approaches can help avoid misdiagnosis.
Trauma can also be misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) because of similarities.
Some symptoms could be: trouble concentrating, sleep disruption or disturbance, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, detachment, inattention, distraction, and restlessness, to name a few.
Having a clear understanding of what the child has experienced and their support system can help understand what kind of trauma has occurred and help educate the parents, guardians, or foster parents, so they can begin to understand the behaviors and emotional responses that may occur during the healing process.
Since play is a child’s first language, child-centered modalities such as art, games, play, and other expressive tools can help them tell their stories.
One tool I like to use is Jenga blocks with emotion or feeling words written on the blocks to help children and adolescents express how they feel , with a goal of wanting to change negative emotions.
Trauma therapists are trained to read these alternative modes of expression and determine the trauma exposure that may have occurred.
I have worked in coordination with art therapists to facilitate expression through drawing and to analyze the pictures for their underlying meanings.
This type of therapy gives therapists a starting point to work with a child and encourage them to share what has happened to them.
Disclosure is usually imminent and a childline call is made to employ the appropriate authorities in the process.
Once a child or adolescent starts trauma therapy and feels their voice is being heard, they feel more confident.
The child or adolescent learns how to manage and use coping skills to reduce the symptoms associated with the trauma experience.
Victims of crime or abuse are reminded consistently that whatever happened to them is not their fault.
This realization is important and is part of an evidence-based practice that person-centered therapy can help assist in engaging the client to work through their past trauma.
It can help them gain a new perspective of what they have experienced ,and heal from it.