No two children respond to abuse or trauma in exactly the same way. Children who have been abused may develop problems such as: feelings of fear and anxiety, anger issues and emotional outbursts, sadness and withdrawal, nightmares or complications with sleeping, eating disorders, teenage pregnancy, attention and concentration difficulties, academic and social problems, self-mutilation and/or suicidal tendencies, and substance abuse. Children who have been sexually abused may also act out sexually with others, and may have difficulty maintaining appropriate interpersonal boundaries. These and other problems regularly observed in traumatized and abused children are addressed in therapy.
Sometimes people assume that children are unaffected by their abusive or traumatic experiences because the child doesn’t talk about their abuse and/or they do not outwardly express signs of distress. In this type of situation, these children may be using: denial, avoidance and numbing, or attitudes of perfectionism to cope with their traumatic events. It is crucial that these children also receive therapy to assist them in developing helpful coping mechanisms and other healthy ways of dealing with their abuse.
At the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center CAC program, non-offending caregivers are also actively involved in the treatment of their children. The sexual abuse of a child can be intensely difficult for the adults in their lives. Because of this, our therapists provide emotional support to caregivers throughout the treatment process. Furthermore, treatment referrals to adult therapists within the community are also provided to any parents interested in one-on-one therapy for themselves.
The underlying treatment model utilized by the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center CAC program is the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is widely regarded as the most effective treatment for sexually abused and traumatized children. It has the strongest research support of any treatment model with traumatized children. It is also identified as “Best Practice” for therapy with sexually abused children. TF-CBT emphasizes the importance of parent involvement. Throughout the course of treatment, therapists have individual sessions with the child, as well as individual sessions with the caregiver, and also joint sessions with both the parent and child.
In addition to TF-CBT, the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center CAC program also has therapists who have been specifically trained in Play Therapy, a model of treatment techniques that emphasize the child’s natural world of Play in order to promote healing. These techniques are often essential to the treatment of younger children who have been abused but may not have the cognitive or verbal skills necessary to communicate clearly due to their developmental stage. Therapists use art, puppets, sand trays, therapeutic games, etc. as well as words to enable a child to share about, and heal from, their experiences.