At Coyote Hill, our care is not only focused on the well-being of each individual child, but also on equipping each of our homes to function together as a family. The challenge of connecting children/parents who aren’t related biologically, together with the challenge of their past trauma and emotional needs, can be daunting. Here are some ways our staff work together to help heal past hurts, while learning how to form healthy attachments.
One of our therapists, Rachel Howell, explains, “I utilize the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) model in my work at Coyote Hill. This approach views the whole child, striving to meet physical and emotional needs while assessing pieces of their trauma that are brought to each child’s daily experiences. It is imperative that our Home Parents consistently demonstrate that they will meet a child’s basic needs, as our kids have had adults in their lives that have not shown this. The TBRI® model discusses four skills of close relationships. People must be able to give care, receive care, negotiate their needs (advocate), and be capable of autonomy (knowing who they are as an individual within a relationship and outside of that relationship.)
“Our kids who have experienced trauma often struggle with several, if not all, of those areas; or they have developed a significant strength in one area that overshadows other areas. For instance, they’re often capable of giving care to others (as they have been in a parentified role that necessitated it) but are challenged when receiving care, since they have not had someone attending to specific emotional or physical needs. My role is to equip our home parents with tools that can address each of these areas. In doing so, it allows our kids to experience healthy relationships.”
Program Director Amy Kingery adds, “Rachel combines play therapy and TBRI® to do family therapy with each of the homes a couple times each month. There are several goals, including self-regulating and connection.
“Rachel usually includes the band-aid activity in all her family group sessions. This activity begins by asking an assigned partner if he/she has any hurts. If they say yes, then you get to ask if you can put a band-aid on the hurt. This activity can address ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ hurts that individuals wish to share. They get the choice of what they want to share. Research shows that being able to give and receive care is an important aspect of development, as well as healing from trauma and being able to form healthy attachments.
We do all we can to help our children learn how to develop those healthy attachments. Another way that we promote connections within our homes is through equine assisted family therapy sessions in Overton Arena.
Now that the new school year is well underway, our Equine Program Manager Rebecca Buchholz has added family sessions to the weekly arena schedule. She explains what a session can look like, “This week, the families had fun working together to give our horses hair-dos. It put the parents and kids in a rare position, as the children got to lead the activity. It helped teach the kids to be considerate and conscientious and that they have something important to contribute to the family. Our families learned about themselves and how they interact together, and how to better understand each other.”
Amy concludes, “Ultimately, our goal is to utilize multiple tools to offer multiple opportunities for our children to heal, learn, and grow. Often, we adults do our own share of healing, learning, and growing as well. I think that is one of the great opportunities for connection that truly can make an eternal significance!”
“It is crystal clear that relationships are the counterpoint to traumatic stress in childhood.” ~~Dr. Bruce Perry