"It’s hard to say what somebody can manage in a state of extreme pain. We protect ourselves. All of the things kids do that we see as deviant, disruptive, unhealthy, or ineffective are meeting a need at some point in their lives. They are amazing survivors. They’ve come through a lot.” - Markley Hawkins, Therapist in our Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility
We know more than ever about the human brain and the ways that maltreatment and abuse impact its development during childhood when is growing most rapidly. We have the ability to assess which parts of a child’s brain have been most impacted by maltreatment. We understand what it takes to heal different parts of the brain. Traditional treatment methods impact one region of the brain. At Alexander Youth Network, we are developing innovative strategies to impact more hard-to-reach regions of the brain.
The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT)
The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) is a developmentally-informed, biologically-respectful approach to working with at-risk children. Developed by Dr. Bruce Perry of the Child Trauma Academy, the NMT is not a specific therapeutic technique or intervention; it is a way to organize the child’s history and current functioning to optimally inform the therapeutic process.
The Functional Brain Map
The functional brain map provides a method for incorporating what we know about an individual child’s earliest experiences with what we have most recently learned from neuroscience. Through a process of structured data collection, we can develop a “map” of a child’s current brain functioning. This map tells us which parts of the brain need the most attention and healing. The functional brain mapping process assists clinicians to match the type and timing of specific therapeutic interventions to the neurodevelopmental needs of the child.
Treatment works best when it adheres to "The 5 R’s":
- Respectful- Consistent with the child’s developmental age.
- Rewarding- Fun! Kids won’t do it, if it isn’t fun.
- Relational-Takes place within the context of a relationship, because that is how we learn best.
- Repetitive-The brain needs to experience new things over and over in order to fully grasp them. That’s how learning works.
- Rhythmic- Activities that follow a strong, simple rhythm are most soothing to the human brain.
The 5 R’s at work: Therapy that looks and feels like play:
- Therapeutic Drumming- Kids are taught to play the drum rhythms of West African villages.
- Swimming- Children practice basic swimming strokes while swimming laps in the pool. Others will experience Ah Chi, like Tai Chi in the pool.
- Yoga - Children practice the art of deep breathing and laughing yoga.
- Pottery- Children roll, press, and mold clay as a way of exercising their brains.
- Pet Pals- Children spend time petting, grooming, and playing with dogs. They build relationships and develop empathy for others.
Learn more about NMT and Alexander Youth Network's approach to healing mental trauma in children. Contact resident Child Trauma Academy fellows, Dr. Dawn O'Malley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Joe Heritage (email@example.com).