FULTON, NY – When it comes to counseling traumatized youth, perhaps no one does it better than the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County. In the past year the counseling staff at the CAC conducted more than 3,000 counseling sessions and served 164 children and their family members.
While the vast majority of these sessions deal with cases of physical and sexual abuse, there are many that address the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that can be brought about by other incidents such as the loss of a parent or caregiver, witnessing violence, or drug endangerment to name a few.
To become even more proficient, CAC staff members Melanie Proper, Stacy Austin-Root, and Melissa Baker, all Licensed Mental Health Counselors, recently received their certification in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
They are three of only 19 counselors in New York State with such a certification.
An evidence based treatment, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on a specific trauma. While it is a very structured treatment there is an element of flexibility that plays an important role in its effectiveness.
“We screen each child that we see to determine if there are any indicators for post traumatic stress disorder. If there are, we work to establish what the event was that triggered these feelings and adapt the therapy so that we many address that specific issue,” explained Proper.
In addition to the treatment’s flexibility, it has a component that emphasizes the importance of involving the parents in the process.
“Crucial to the success of Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the participation of the parent or caregiver,” said Austin-Root. “Trauma affects more than just the child. It affects the parents / caregivers as well as siblings. We meet with the child’s family to show them how they may help the child at home. We work with them regarding parenting and behavior management skills, identifying feelings and healthy ways to express them, and to promote healthy, positive communication regarding the trauma.”
To receive certification the trio participated in a learning collaborative that included in-depth training and covered much more than the minimum criteria.
They attended both on-site and off-site training sessions over the past year and learned not only how to put this type of therapy to use, but also how to incorporate it into the agency’s services and explain its benefits to parents and stakeholders.
“Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a proven best practice therapy. It is a short-term treatment that is appropriate for most children ages 3 to 18 that have experienced a traumatic event and are having symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Research has shown that on average Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy reduces symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder by 80% by the end of the treatment. Additionally, treating these symptoms as early as possible also diminishes the possibility of long term difficulties,” added Austin-Root.
CAC director Karrie Damm praised her staff members and spoke of the importance of their certification and the positive effect is will have on the agency.
“Receiving certification in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is quite an achievement. I am proud to say that of the 19 counselors certified in New York State, three of them are here at the CAC, two more therapists are in the process of receiving certification, and still two other interns have been trained in this milieu. Their certification further enhances the services we offer and assures family court judges, schools, the Department of Social Services, and other agencies that serve youth that through the use Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the CAC has the ability to serve children that have experienced any traumatic event. Our services are not limited to trauma from sexual or physical abuse,” said Damm.
Located at 301 Beech St. in Fulton, with a satellite office at 4822 Salina St. in Pulaski, the CAC of Oswego County is a non-profit charitable organization that works hand-in-hand with local law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, probation, medical providers, therapy providers, and victim advocacy professionals in Oswego County to protect and serve children that are victims of sexual and physical abuse.
For more information on the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, call 315-59-CHILD.