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August 19, 2013

From Classroom to Clients: Complex Trauma and Child Sexual Abuse Interventions

Handling Complex Traumas Better

Leanne O’Neill, a psychiatric nurse in Quesnel, B.C., is on the homestretch of completing the Graduate Certificate in Complex Trauma and Child Sexual Abuse Intervention at Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).

O’Neill enrolled in the part-time, 15-credit program after graduating from the two-year Psychiatric Nursing program at the private Stenberg College in the Lower Mainland.  She now works for B.R. Baker Memorial Hospital as part of the Quesnel Emergency Short Stay Treatment and as a Sexual Abuse Intervention Program (SAIP) counsellor for the Quesnel Child and Youth Support Society.

“I can’t imagine doing the work I’m doing without having taken this program,” she said during a recent telephone interview.

“That sentiment,” says Program Manager Susan Forest, is “pretty much all we’ve heard. We are coming up to the third offering of this certificate and we’ve heard nothing but rave reviews. Students comment on the instructors, the quality of the content, and the practical skills they are able to apply in their work with clients.”

The term complex trauma describes a person’s exposure to multiple traumatic events, often occurring in childhood, and the long-term impact of these events. “The person experiences the event as traumatic,” says O’Neill.

Some common traumas include domestic violence, sexual abuse and living in refugee and war zones.” Unfortunately these events often occur when the survivor is developmentally vulnerable resulting in consequences that can impact everyday life for that person.

“This program shines a light on the gaps in service,” said O’Neill. “Previous mainstream interventions in care based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) are not necessarily addressing client needs in as complex a manner as required while interacting face-to-face with a client.  Through this program, I’ve learned assessment and treatment interventions that address the needs of trauma survivors and I have already seen a positive correlation when applying this to my practice.”

“In some clients, I see conduct disorders or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), a disorder that is specifically characterized by frequent episodes of anger, deliberately irritating or hostile behavior and a pronounced intolerance for authority.  These kids can get labeled as bad kids. The Complex Trauma and Child Sexual Abuse Certificate program has provided me with information to support clients, families and communities, to educate them, and to look past labels, understand behaviors and apply interventions that may be more beneficial. ”

One of the surprising outcomes for me was how much I experienced my own personal growth as a result of being in the program.   I thought I had a really good understanding of transference and counter-transference and how that arises in working with clients. Now, I’m even more self-aware of my own belief systems. This program helped me to recognize when my belief systems are being triggered in the moment and how to handle that as well as to accept that it’s okay, that it’s just an inevitable part of working with people.

 “I feel like this program has allowed me to take my interventions to the next level. “The Justice Institute is known to have the best instructors in the field. They go above and beyond. The program really emphasizes building support systems for yourself in your own community to try and access clinical supervision and peer support. O’Neill admits that can be a real challenge in rural communities.

Even with 18 years of counselling experience, Christine Clark, a Sexual Abuse Intervention Clinical Counsellor and former participant in the program, admits to being surprised at how useful the tools and information have been to her current SAIP counselling position. “The information, assessment tools, and techniques were demonstrated and clearly taught which allowed me to implement these into my counselling practice immediately after attending the course.”

Forest says the certificate program draws on the most current clinical and evidence-based material on effective complex trauma intervention, as well as the most recent research on attachment, neurobiology, memory and dissociation.

Offered through JIBC's School of Community and Social Justice, there’s still time to apply for September. Visit the Graduate Certificate in Complex Trauma and Child Sexual Abuse Intervention webpage.

Tags: Centre for Counselling & Community Safety, counselling, graduate certificates

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Last updated October 3, 2014