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Familylinks' STEP Program Helps Children Like Rachel

For a young child struggling with the aftermath of abuse, a safe therapeutic environment is crucial for the recovery process. That’s what Familylinks’ Short Term Enhanced Programming (STEP) provides to children like Rachel, 9. When she first came to STEP, Rachel was tense and anxious any time she was in a public place, always on the lookout for a family member who had abused her.

She had a constant fear that this person was going to come and take her away from her home. Her anxiety meant she was having emotional outbursts in school, which were triggered by loud noises and chaotic situations. Rachel also was having nightmares and dealing with feelings of abandonment.

STEP provided Rachel the support she needed. She received intensive therapy through STEP that was tailored to her situation, aimed at helping her develop coping skills and talk about the trauma she had been through. STEP serves children and adolescents ages 6 – 21 with emotional disturbances, who need consistent, intense support.

STEP allows therapists to be mobile, meeting with children on a flexible schedule, whether at home, at school on in their community.  The therapy happens in a place where the child feels secure. This was key for Rachel, who was having both separation anxiety when leaving home, and feeling anxious in public places.  She needed the safe environment that STEP provides.

A STEP therapist was able to take the time to build a rapport with Rachel. It was not easy to reach the deeply traumatized child; at first, she didn’t want to talk about what she had been through. Together, Rachel and her therapist worked to help her develop positive feelings toward the coping skills she was learning.

Rachel’s therapist made stick puppets to let her communicate things she wasn’t able to talk about, and they created a calming bag to hold things Rachel could use to help calm herself when she was feeling anxious. They made a dream catcher for her nightmares, and blew bubbles to signify blowing away the bad memories that were causing Rachel so much anxiety. And they created a positive memory book to allow Rachel to recognize that despite her past trauma, she’s now in a safe and loving environment.

All of these activities laid the foundation to help Rachel become stronger and more confident. Over time she grew more comfortable talking about the past, and about her trauma. She’s no longer overwhelmed by anxiety thanks to the coping skills she’s learned, and the nightmares have subsided.

Since beginning her STEP therapy, Rachel is doing better in school and her self-esteem has improved. She’s not looking around for the abuser every time she goes out in public anymore, and her family says Rachel now recognizes she’s in a safe place with people who care about her.

It's through your generous donations that Familylinks is able to continue to help children like Rachel. Together we can help make all the families that Familylinks serves stronger, for life.