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Supporting Students And Families Cognitive Behavioral Intervention For Trauma In Schools

By Fargo Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rachael Agre

With the support of the Treatment Collaborative for Traumatized Youth (TCTY), 11 Fargo Public Schools staff were able to attend a two-day focused workshop on Trauma Focused Cognitive Based Therapy on January 11-12, 2018.

What is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)?

  • TF-CBT is a child and parent psychotherapy approach for children who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events.
  • It is a components-based treatment model that incorporates trauma-sensitive interventions with cognitive behavioral, and family principles and techniques.
  • Children and parents learn new skills to help process thoughts and feelings related to traumatic life events; manage and resolve distressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related traumatic life events; and enhance safety, growth, parenting skills, and family communication.

Who is TF-CBT for?

  • TF-CBT has proved successful with children ages three to 18, who have significant emotional problems (e.g., symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, fear, anxiety, or depression) related to traumatic life events.

The full training is designed for Therapists who often serve as outside providers for our students and families. By providing the two day training for this volunteer group, Fargo Public Schools will be discussing, designing and planning how identified elements of TF-CBT may be utilized in our schools by counselors and/or social workers. This group will be meeting to continue this conversation in hopes to bring a common language, defined practice and a streamlined continuum for families to access supports both in school and within the community:

  • Amy Riccio (Social Worker – Drop Out Prevention)
  • Cassie Larson (Eagles)
  • Heidi Fiechtner (South High)
  • Janelle Stahl-Ladbury (North High)
  • Jenny Rude (Agassiz)
  • Jessica Anderson (Agassiz)
  • Kylie Wallender (Carl Ben Eielson)
  • Lannette Christmann (Ben Franklin)
  • Laura Sokolofsky (Jefferson)
  • Nancy Tisor (Ed Clapp)
  • Rachel Johnson (Carl Ben Eielson)

The research base behind TF-CBT identifies two important benefits to substantiate the time and efforts being put towards this initiative: 1) Parents are often the most important people in the child’s life and the TF-CBT model encourages caregiver’s active participation.  If the parent is not able to participate (i.e. foster care), a stable caretaker who can support the child can participate. 2) Posttraumatic stress symptoms need to be addressed as early as possible to prevent long-term difficulties.

Providing this supportive resource within a school setting may decrease the often-complex behaviors some students are exhibiting. Some of the important elements which are addressed and included in this approach:

  • Education about trauma and common reactions
  • Help with parenting and behavior problems
  • Relaxation/stress management training
  • Learning about feelings and ways to express them
  • Learning about our thoughts, feelings, and actions,
  • Developing creative ways for kids to gradually tell their stories about what happened.
  • Changing any unhelpful thoughts about the trauma
  • Family sessions to help the family talk together about the trauma
  • Learning and practicing safety skills.
  • Talking about the trauma will be done in a gradual, supportive manner and will not occur until the child has learned some skills to cope with the discomfort.

This is an exciting and very important initiative. Thank you to the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, specifically Jennifer Boub (TCTY Coordinator), for financially supporting Fargo Public Schools in this learning. Thank you also to our 11 staff who have participated in the initial training and will continue this work and collaboration in efforts to support our students and families.