LIMA — The Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio has a new tool in their belts when treating children dealing with trauma. Adventure Therapy looks like organized fun, but as a group counseling tool, it can help children and teenagers rehearse the skills — communication, collaboration and engagement — they need to succeed.
Bobbi Beale, senior research associate with Case Western Reserve, said the counseling technique is meant to curb the “fight, flight or freeze” reaction that many troubled children may rely on when dealing with everyday life.
Beale said something as simple as a teacher asking for math homework may seem like a threat for traumatized children, and their reaction is due to survival instincts kicking in.
“We punish them for surviving instead of recognizing the toxic trauma,” Beale said.
The resource center has already extended the program into Auglaize and Hancock counties and have seen good results. Director of Clinical Services Jodi Knouff said she’s heard from teachers of some of the counseled children respond positively to the behavioral changes they witness.
“It’s a lot of work, but they’ve seen the kids make progress,” she said.
Additional funds through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has allowed the resource center to extend the program into Allen and Hardin counties. Allen County Children Services will be working with the agency to refer children into the group counseling sessions.
Beale said children who benefit from the technique may have suffered from many types of abuse and neglect. Behavioral problems in children are often caused by combinations of household disfunction, pressures caused by poverty and toxic stress.
Without proper care and counseling, some of these children may drop out of school or be convicted of crimes.
Beale said the technique is evidence-supported and is still gathering the data necessary to be considered evidence-based. Short-term effectiveness is measured by surveys and questionnaires, but its true effectiveness will be measure by seeing if these children are able to stay in school and lead productive lives when they are adults, Beale said.
“I’m super excited about it,” Knouff said. “For the last 17 years, this is one of my favorite programs, and I’m very excited about offering this. … It’s a kind of like a once in a lifetime sort of thing that can help so many kids.”