This winning story was received during our 2016 summer story contest by Mary Kralemann, Intensive In-Home Therapist for KVC Kansas.
Thomas and his three siblings had to be removed from their mother’s home twice due to parental drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. When he was 12 years old, Thomas went to live with his grandmother for his own safety.
At school one day, Thomas’ wrestling coach pinned him during practice. That experience triggered negative memories of the sexual abuse he had endured as a child. A trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and may only be indirectly reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.
The incident made Thomas fearful. He became nervous about walking to school, so he brought a knife with him to feel safer. He never intended to use the knife, but school officials discovered it and expelled him for the remainder of the school year. Thomas was given a tablet so that he could work on recovering credits online, but without the assistance of a teacher. During this time, he felt depressed and isolated from this friends at school. He lacked motivation to complete his school work and had difficulty identifying and expressing his emotions.
KVC was asked to provide therapy for the family, and I worked with Thomas and his grandmother for several months. I helped coordinate case management and provided individual therapy for Thomas. Guided by Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) and other treatment interventions, I was able to help him understand how the severe trauma he experienced as a child had serious effects on him. When we help a child or teen who is experiencing mental health or behavior challenges, we don’t ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with them?” Instead we ask, “What happened to you?” The answer lies in talking through the trauma, helping the child learn how to identify and regulate his or her emotions, and working with caregivers to create trauma-informed home and school environments.
I saw a huge change in him. By the beginning on the school year, Thomas had worked very hard and he was extremely motivated to go back to school. He learned how to express his emotions and was able to let go of unhealthy relationships that were holding him back. For the first time in his life, Thomas was able to express to his mother how her choices had impacted him. He felt like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders and he was able to conquer his depression. Thomas no longer needs medication to help him heal from his difficult childhood, and he has successfully completed individual therapy. Thomas and his grandmother now have the skills to communicate well with one another and Thomas continues to succeed at school and at home.
It is estimated that 2 out of 3 youth will be exposed to trauma before the age of 16. Trauma impacts important regions of the brain responsible for problem-solving, emotion regulation and memory, increasing the risk for health and wellness problems later in life. Addressing and treating childhood trauma improves outcomes not only for individuals and families; communities as a whole also benefit from healthy citizens and reduced healthcare costs. Learn more in our blog post: Healing From the Life-Long Effects of Childhood Trauma [VIDEO]. You can also visit our website to learn more about our family preservation and therapy services.