Sometimes very young children do not have the verbal skills to participate in traditional "talk therapy" and they frequently have difficulty talking about what is bothering them. This is not because they don't want to discuss their thoughts and feelings, but because they haven't yet developed the vocabulary or the thinking skills that they need to be able to do this. In addition, older children may be too traumatized by their abuse to benefit from traditional therapy.
Play therapy is an approach to counseling children that allows them to use toys and other play and art material to express their thoughts and feelings. In a play session, children can use their play to show the counselor what they are thinking and feeling. The counselor can use the play to communicate with children about what is happening in their lives and to help them explore alternative behaviors and attitudes.
The CAC has a fully equipped Play Therapy room and a counselor trained to offer these services to young child victims.
In addition to play therapy, art therapy can be used to help a child release his or her emotions associated with the abuse experience. The art making process reduces anxiety and helps the child process his or her feelings toward the perpetrator. The child's art throughout the therapeutic process provides visual measurements of progress and change as well as provide the client with a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.
During art therapy, drawing has been shown to act as an emotional buffer, allowing children to describe in detail the events of their abuse. Drawing taps into the storage of traumatic memories, providing children with the communication tools needed to talk about their abusive experiences. The descriptions and meanings a child assigns to a drawing are the only possible accurate interpretations that can be made.
The CAC has a Master's level Art Therapist trained to offer these services to young child victims.
Animal-Assisted Therapy is the use of a specially trained animal in a therapeutic setting to assist the counselor with specific goals and to provide children with animal interaction so that they may feel safe and secure in the counseling environment. This can help children increase their self-esteem and self-worth, as well as decrease feelings of depression and isolation as a result of abuse.
Interaction of this type also provides many benefits such as empathy, nurturing, physical contact and touch, mental stimulations, rapport, outward focus, physiological benefits and acceptance.
The CAC has counselors who are certified handlers for therapy dogs and we provide this service when therapy dogs are available.
SPARK is a school-based therapy and family support services program forged through a cooperative agreement between Lake Sumter Children's Advocacy Center and Sumter County Schools. The program initiated services with the commencement of school year 2018-19. The SPARK acronym stands for "Supporting Powerful and Resilient Kids" and signifies the program's commitment to provide therapeutic services that capitalize on the inherent strengths of the children it serves. SPARK is the first community outreach program the CAC has offered to child survivors of abuse.
The CAC's team of SPARK therapists provides Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) to students across eight Sumter County Schools in their quest to promote recovery and resiliency.