The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and USF are collaborating to study an innovative approach to treating trauma in children.
Children who have experienced trauma such as loss of a loved one, violence or a medical event traditionally receive one-on-one counseling from a trained professional. In a process known as Step Care Research, parents are taught how to counsel the children themselves. The results are cost savings and a deeper parent child relationship.
The program is based on the same model of cognitive and behavioral therapy and is designed to provide children with the skills and abilities they need to cope.
The Center is currently in the second year of two three-year research projects studying this technique, on children ages 7 to 12. A total of 100 families will be involved in both projects.
Study results show that parents working at home with their child over six to eight weeks have 80 percent of the same effect as happens when a child undergoes professional counseling in a traditional 12 to14 week program. Results are measured by improvement in behavioral and emotional issues over time.
A second, and perhaps equally important, outcome is an enhanced parent child bond. "Parents are saying, 'this has been the best thing that happened to me and my kid,' " says David Braughton, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
Next steps are to continue the study on a wider scale to further validate the approach, resources and materials used and then to advance the practice to other institutions. "Hopefully it will become one of those best practices to be used around the country," says Braughton.
The potential impact is tremendous. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that for every child being seen for sexual abuse there are 15 who need treatment. The Step Care Program could expand treatment options and make them more available for the families who really need them but are not able to afford one-on-one counseling.
"For what it costs to treat one family, we can treat 10," says Braughton. "The long term benefits are immeasurable."
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Braughton, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay