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Client Spotlight: Healing Trauma Through METRIC

This is a real interview with the caregiver of a Black and Latino 6-year-old boy diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He and his caregivers engaged with a course of Child Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), followed by Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Participating in the METRIC Grant, his treatment included work with himself, his pre-adoptive foster parents, and his biological mother. Prior to living with his current family, he experienced a tumultuous life, witnessing violence in the home with biological parents and being moved between multiple foster care homes.

Can you briefly describe what life was like for your family before receiving outpatient treatment at CET?

My husband and I are in the process of adopting a group of three siblings, and he is the oldest. Once he moved in with us, he had some extreme behaviors. He was hitting, kicking, and generally displaying a lot of behaviors that let us know that things were not okay for him. He would really struggle when we had to get him out of a car to go somewhere, he would hysterically cry, he would wake up at night and wake us up too because he didn’t want to sleep alone. It was a really difficult time.

We tried regular talk therapy first, and even though it was alleviating some of the difficulties, it wasn’t “curing” what was going on with him. It wasn’t getting to the root of the problem. He was also at an age where he was really trying to understand the world around him, his life, and what he had been through.

When we got connected with the Baker Center, we were at the point where we were ready and willing to try anything to help him. We knew that we really needed trauma focused therapy rather than typical psychotherapy. Leading up to the point when we came to the Center for Effective Therapy, a lot of our lives was just us as his parents trying to figure out how to manage the behaviors and help this little boy who was suffering so much.

What made you want to contact The Baker Center?

I used to work for the Department of Children and Families, so I had some familiarity with how to get connected to services in general. I think I used one of the referral services for kids who have experienced trauma and learned that the Baker Center’s Center for Effective Therapy provided evidence-based trauma informed care for kids and families, and it seemed like a great fit.

How was your experience with The Baker Center different than with other clinics?

We had tried other forms of therapy for him but after experiencing the care at the Baker Center, I feel that the expertise at the Baker Center was better.

Working with Dr. Michelle Alto, and other professionals, who were highly educated and who had more training on evidence-based approaches than those at other centers, was such a benefit. I could see the differences in their effectiveness through his response to treatment. At CET, I saw him begin to open up more. I also started to see his body respond to the therapy, which I had never seen before. He became calmer, and I could see that physical change in him throughout therapy at CET.

I feel like Dr. Alto and the whole team are all really informed on how to work with kids how have experienced trauma. I sometimes had to bring my other kids with me to the office for session to make it work, and the whole support team knew how to engage with them. You just walk in there and they know what to do. Dr. Alto was just super sensitive to our needs as a family, and she knew exactly what we were going through. She was able to help us as parents through coaching sessions, and she was able to talk to us about all of the work she was doing with him. I feel like it was normalized, I didn’t feel like I was dealing with a huge mountain that I had to climb by myself. Even if the mountain was huge, I felt like it was manageable throughout my time at CET because I was so well supported.

Your treatment at the Center included work with your son, work with his bio-mom, and work with you and his other current caregivers. Can you tell me a bit about these experiences?

Honestly, I really wanted him to have a session with his bio-mom, and I just thought it would never happen. His bio-mom comes from a traumatic background as well, and when we had tried to do a session all together with a previous clinician it didn’t work. The way that Dr. Alto managed to talk with her and include her in his treatment was amazing. I will be forever thankful for that because he had room for the first time in his life to talk about the things that had happened to him, the things he had experienced and seen, and the thoughts and feelings that he never got to express to her before. Previously, he had been removed from the environment and he seemed to keep them all inside. He shared some of it with us, but we couldn’t provide him with the kind of closure that his bio mom could. We were able to get him that closure with bio mom through the session that Dr. Alto facilitated, and through the individual work with him.

For me, Dr. Alto really helped me to learn the tools and skills to help communicate effectively with him, and she validated my own experiences while building confidence in my parenting skills.

How is life different now vs. before treatment?

I don’t get calls from his school anymore, he is able to sleep at night, and he no longer hits us or anyone. The symptoms that he came in with are really subdued or gone. He can articulate his feelings and talk about things and he can regulate his emotions when he gets angry or upset.  He even coaches us as parents on when to take a deep breath if he can tell we are getting stressed out. He is so emotionally attuned and intelligent. I don’t know what we would have done if we never did this treatment. It was amazing to see it all unfold, and to see it get him to the place where he is now.

We believe in the treatment that CET provides so much that we’re bringing in the middle child in the sibling group for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).

How did he feel about his own experience in therapy?

He loved to talk to Dr. Alto, and he was so sad that therapy had to end. He wanted to keep going and would always say that he loved playing with her. She was so patient and kind with him. Even on days when he didn’t want to go, she was able to get him engaged and help him feel comfortable. He talked about some hard stuff with her, and it created a strong bond with a lot of trust.

What would you like to share with parents with kids like your son?

Well, I used to work for the Department of Children and Families for 7 years. Throughout that time, I had never referred a child to the Baker Center, and looking back I wonder, “what was I thinking?” I didn’t even know about you guys! It could have helped so many kids in the system and in foster care. I am still working with kids in the foster care system, the awareness of the Center is a game changer.

I would tell any family to do it [seek services at CET], the best thing you can do is to invest in your child's mental health. Crises happen, but if you're prepared, and if your child has gone through any type of trauma, this is the place to go and the thing to do. You are investing in their well-being; you're helping their mind be reconstructed again into a place where they feel safe and healthy and they're able to process what they've gone through. Things can come up later in life from these experiences, so why not deal with them now.

If you have the place to go and the people who can help, why not go? The Baker Center’s Center for Effective Therapy is that place. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. Go put in the work, the results are real, the results don’t lie. It’s evidence-based and it’s so awesome. I would encourage other families to take that step forward towards their child’s treatment.