CARE House’s treatment staff consists of professionals who are specially trained to work with survivors of child sexual abuse. This type of therapy is trauma-focused, centered around emotional and physical safety, and always at the pace of the child. This allows a child to feel safe and secure at CARE House, not cause additional harm. Even if caregivers do not see concerning behavior from their children, at the very least, child sexual abuse is confusing for children, and children and families can always benefit from working with a therapist to provide accurate education about trauma and abuse. We know from our work that most children and teenagers who have been sexually abused are not able to tell a trusted adult right away. Perpetrators of sexual abuse more than likely used bribes, threats, and manipulation, resulting in a child believing they were complicit in the abuse, and staying silent. The reality is that things have likely not been “normal” for a long time, and families deserve to be able to create a new normal. When families request therapy, we first meet with caregivers to discuss background information, ensure that CARE House will best fit their child’s needs, and discuss therapy goals.
We use therapy modalities that are both evidence-based for the treatment of child sexual abuse and developmentally appropriate, primarily play therapy (http://www.a4pt.org/page/PTMakesADifference) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/trauma/).
Therapy goals are based on the needs of the families we work with, but common goals are:
- Child is safe and feels safe.
- Child feels supported by other adults.
- Normalize trauma symptoms to child and caregivers.
- Child is able to identify and practice positive coping skills in stressful situations.
- Child and caregivers understand the dynamics of sexual abuse.
- Child understands that abusers use tricks to get kids to go along with abuse.
- The blame for abuse is placed on abuser.
- Caregiver understands how to support child.
- Child receives consistent messages that it is okay to love and miss an abuser.
- Child and family members demonstrate understanding of appropriate boundaries.
- Caregivers feel confident responding to behavioral issues.
- Child is functioning at same level, if not better, than before the abuse.
Activities working towards goals involve games, art, or toys—all tools that allow for creative expression and fun. Therapy is structured to promote physical and emotional safety, with firm boundaries for kids, consistency, and predictability in structure so that kids know what will happen next. As we provide all of our services at no cost, we are not limited by insurance, allowing children and families to work with us as long as is needed.
It is a parent’s worst nightmare to discover that their child has been sexually abused. It is our job to help families create a new normal and heal from the wounds of abuse.