Sarah’s Recovery After Witnessing Domestic Violence at Home
by Joelle Vessels, M.A. LMFT – Director, Youth & Mental Health Services: Interface Children & Family Services
Sarah, age six, was experiencing changes in her appetite, sleep and levels of play that were of concern to her mom and grandmother after Sarah witnessed domestic violence at home. They had been referred to Interface by Sarah’s teacher, Ben, when Sarah began to isolate from her friends at school. Ben knew that Interface therapists are well-trained in child abuse treatment and trauma informed therapies. Sarah’s therapist, Jessica, immediately set the stage for young Sarah’s healing process to begin by creating a safe, comfortable environment using toys and art supplies that were familiar to her.
In the beginning of treatment, Sarah had a hard time sharing memories and thoughts about the traumatic event she had witnessed. Over a period of several months she continued to state that she didn’t want to share any details. Eventually, Sarah began to feel safer and expressed a readiness to share what had happened in her home. Jessica listened and validated Sarah’s feelings. Sarah was relieved to find out that it wasn’t as scary as she thought to tell someone. She learned it was okay to talk about events that made her feel afraid or angry. Jessica helped Sarah learn ways to calm her fears and how to verbally express her feelings and thoughts. Sarah also learned additional ways to help calm herself during times she was reminded of the trauma. She was able to apply what she learned in therapy at school. Sarah’s mom and grandparents also learned the skills and they practiced together.
Social and emotional health are key to reaching developmental milestones throughout the lifespan. When a child as young as Sarah experiences trauma, if not dealt with properly, it can lead to a lifetime of serious physical, emotional and behavioral challenges.
Interface’s mental health team often address concerns that parents have when their children are experiencing barriers to healthy development. These concerns may be symptoms related to anxiety or depression which can sometimes look like an angry or withdrawn child or teen. Sometimes like in Sarah’s case, the symptoms are as a result of a traumatic life event. Staff receive ongoing training and supervision to ensure positive therapeutic outcomes are achieved using evidence-based practices which research shows leads to improvements like Sarah in our story.
Interface is privileged to be a tenant of the Human Services Center. Staff often make referrals to other service providers for the benefit of Interface families, and we thoroughly enjoy shopping at Senior Concerns! Thank you, Community Conscience, for making the Human Services Center a free, comprehensive and valuable resource to the community!