Child and Adolescent Services
"I think I can, I think I can.” -The Little Engine That Could
Children and adolescents exposed to domestic violence and/or sexual abuse may suffer from various cognitive and/or behavioral issues. Feeling scared, confused, hopeless, anxious, sad, depressed, angry, resentful, bitter, insecure, or worthless are not uncommon. Similarly, some victims may experience problems with sleeping or eating; bed wetting/soiling, physical aggression, acting out, bullying, poor peer choices, substance abuse issues, social withdrawal, trouble concentrating, and/or risk-taking behaviors. Many children and adolescents experience a combination of the symptoms described above, coupled with having mixed emotions about the abuser. With supportive therapy, victims can learn to effectively cope with their experiences, thus being given a fighting chance of reversing the negative impact of trauma.
SAFE in Hunterdon offers free and confidential programs and services that are carefully designed to decrease the impacts of trauma experienced by children and adolescents who have witnessed violence in their homes or been the victims of a sexual assault. We wholeheartedly believe in the value of treating the family (or non-offending caregiver, when applicable). Counseling staff makes every effort to encourage caregivers to attend their own counseling, whether it be with SAFE or an outside entity. In addition, family sessions are encouraged and incorporated when therapeutically valuable. Bi-monthly check-ins are made to caregivers by counselors, in person or by phone, to ensure that skills being taught in sessions are reinforced by caregivers in the home.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
SAFE in Hunterdon’s Child and Adolescent Services use a variety of interventions based on the client’s need, developmental appropriateness, and preference. One approach used is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT.
This is a highly researched and greatly esteemed method of counseling proven to help children overcome trauma-related problems by reducing challenging emotional and behavioral responses that result from exposure to trauma. CBT techniques are also directed at helping the child to develop positive coping skills while also addressing distorted thoughts associated with the experience of trauma. Additionally, the counselor will work to support non-offending caregivers by reinforcing various skills that support their children, providing additional resources, and providing psychoeducation about the trauma experienced. This methodology can be used with victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
TF-CBT is the most widely disseminated and well-supported treatment approach for children, teens and their families impacted by trauma. TF-CBT is a hybrid approach that integrates:
- Trauma sensitive interventions
- Cognitive behavioral interventions
- Attachment theory
- Developmental neurobiology
- Family therapy
- Empowerment therapy
- Humanistic therapy
TF-CBT has been recognized with the highest ratings for effectiveness by the US Department of Justice and recognized with an exemplary program award from the US Department of Health and Human Services and SAMHSA, and it is listed on the National Registry of Evidenced-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). TF-CBT is appropriate for clients ages 3-18 who have experienced a traumatic memory due to the witnessing of a domestic violence event or events.
Creative Arts Therapy
SAFE endorses the use of the creative arts therapies. Creative arts therapies are defined as the use of art, music, drama, dance/movement, poetry/creative writing, bibliotherapy, play, and sandplay within the context of psychotherapy or counseling. All expressive therapists share the belief that through creative expression and the tapping of the imagination, a person can examine the body, feelings, emotions and his or her thought process in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone.
In addition to these therapeutic interventions utilized at SAFE, the Child and Adolescent Counseling Program incorporates safety planning into their sessions, when relevant. Experiencing trauma is frequently frightening and upsetting for victims, and may leave them feeling powerless, confused, and afraid. Having a safety plan is one way to empower a client to feel and stay safe.
Consequently, counselors discuss and practice skills such as: how to dial 911 (with younger children), identifying safe areas/places they can go in the event of a dangerous situation, how to stay calm, and distinguishing trusted adults who they can talk to. The counselors also discuss and encourage the caregiver to reinforce these skills at home.