*This winning story was received during our 2016 summer story contest by Rachel Rogal, Clinical Assessor for KVC Kentucky. You can also read it on page 23 of our 2016 Annual Report.
Shelby is a 16-year-old girl who endured sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbor beginning at the age of four. She struggled to heal from her traumatic past, experiencing severe anxiety and depression, and had a difficult time communicating openly with family members. While she was not yet ready and somewhat unsure of how to share her story and discuss the excruciating hardships of what she had experienced, she reported often feeling unheard and tossed to the side any time she attempted to open up about her past.
Shelby’s family was referred to KVC for in-home family support services. After addressing the needs of the family, KVC clinical assessor Rachel Rogal suggested that Shelby write a trauma narrative to describe her past experiences in detail. She wrote about her thoughts and emotions, revealing the full impact that the experience had and learning how it affects her life presently. One might wonder, “Why relive something so painful?” That is a valid question, however trauma narratives come out of an evidence-based intervention called Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). That means the positive benefits of the intervention are proven through rigorous research. When this treatment approach is deemed appropriate for the person, the results can be powerful.
Trauma narratives have had an amazing impact on many children’s lives including Shelby’s; writing her story benefitted her tremendously. Due to the genuine, trusting relationship she had with her therapist and through a mixture of individual and family therapy sessions, the trauma narrative helped Shelby’s parents understand how better to support her. Most importantly, Shelby learned to live with the terrible things that happened to her and is now aware that her traumatic past does not define her; it is simply part of her story. Shelby is incredibly brave and by sharing her story, she now feels stronger, more peaceful and more empowered than ever.
“I worked with Shelby for four months and was able to see her regain strength as an individual through telling her story,” Rachel said. “Shelby did all of the hard work. Without her dedication and commitment to wanting to truly see positive changes in her life, this would not have been possible. I feel so lucky to have been even just a small part of Shelby’s story.”
It is estimated that 2 out of 3 youth will be exposed to trauma before the age of 16. Trauma impacts important regions of the brain responsible for problem-solving, emotion regulation and memory, increasing the risk for health and wellness problems later in life. Addressing and treating childhood trauma improves outcomes not only for individuals and families; communities as a whole also benefit from healthy citizens and reduced healthcare costs. Learn more in our blog post: Healing From the Life-Long Effects of Childhood Trauma [VIDEO].