In 1981 DAP began offering therapy programs for youth who have witnessed domestic violence because we know that children who are exposed to domestic violence in the home face lifelong challenges to their physical, psychological, and social development. Children—from adolescents to infants—experience so much emotional stress when they witness domestic violence that it can affect the development of their brains. This can lead to behavioral changes, including intense anxiety and irritability, depression, problems with sleeping and incontinence, and trouble in school.
Breaking The Cycle Of Violence
We know that children who witness or experience domestic violence are much more likely to use violence later in life, in their own intimate relationships. They also face an increased likelihood of substance abuse, juvenile pregnancy, and social isolation. In one study by The National Institute of Justice, it was found that “being abused or neglected as a child increased the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59%, as an adult by 28%, and for a violent crime by 30%.”
Working with children who have witnessed violence in their homes is central to DAP’s work to break the inter-generational cycle of violence and helping whole families heal.
How It Works
The Children’s Program currently offers four paths of treatment. The first is the Children’s Group. The group meets weekly for 10 – 11 weeks and welcomes kids ages 5 – 12. The first half of group time is reserved for dinner and a large group activity. Children are placed with same-age peers during the second half of group, which is psycho-educational and directive play therapy.
The other three paths are options for individual therapy, and they are for youth ages 5 – 18. Path 1 is 24 sessions long, and focuses on relationship building and healing. Path 2 is 4-12 sessions long, with a goal of supporting the child to learn coping skills and feel safe. Path 3 is crisis intervention – it is offered immediately after the violence has occurred, and only lasts for 1 or 2 sessions. The goal is to give the child and his/her family a sense of safety and validation, and an improved understanding of available resources.
Many families choose to participate in both individual and group therapy. All services for children and adolescents are free of charge.
To speak with someone about the Youth Program, contact Sarah Lockhart, Youth Therapist. You can reach her at 612.874.7063 x. 282 or firstname.lastname@example.org.