Child therapists treat trauma to prevent violence

Southwest Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Family members of the southwest Michigan 9-year-old accused of killing his mother said they knew the boy had mental health problems, but they never expected him to hurt his mother.

“They might say, ‘He was fine a minute ago and all of a sudden he lost it,’ which is really oftentimes one of the impacts of trauma,” Jim Henry, the director of the Children’s Trauma Assessment Center at Western Michigan University, said.

The boy, whose name 24 Hour News 8 is not using because of his age and the early status of the criminal case against him, allegedly shot 51-year-old Pauline Randol in their Sturgis-area home Monday. Family members say Randol had adopted the child out of troubled circumstances about two years ago. Despite the loving home she provided, they said, the boy was still showing signs of mental illness.

Hurt people hurt people, Henry said, and that’s often the impact of child trauma. But he said there’s help available meant to prevent a violent outburst. He uses trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, or TFCBT.

“The goal is that they can manage their emotions when they see trauma triggers,” Henry explained.

TFCBT has been around for more than 10 years, but it became widely available in the last five. The therapy teaches children what trauma is, then how to relax their body and brain and rethink how to react. It also has children talk about their traumatic experiences and teaches them how to stay safe from further trauma.

Henry says in addition to therapy, the child needs a supportive parent figure who helps find their purpose in life. That could start with something like sports or music.

“Everybody needs to have some experience where, ‘Wow, if I try, I can do this,'” Henry said. “And oftentimes if you are traumatized, there is this feeling that, ‘Wow, nothing good is ever going to happen to me.’

“The really important thing to know about trauma is that you can recover from it,” he added.

The symptoms of a child dealing with trauma include breaking the rules, yelling and fighting, pulling away from friends and family and self-harm.

TFCBT has been proven to reduce symptoms. If you’re looking into the therapy, you should confirm your therapist is certified in TFCBT.

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Online:

MDHHS: Find community mental health programs

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