A Glimpse into the Star Program

Within the next few weeks, Grafton’s Berryville campus will open a new unit—The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery (STAR) program. The Star program is a trauma-focused recovery program for children of sexual abuse, trauma exploitation and trafficking. The program will be led by Darryl Funk, LCSW, Clinical Administrator and Jacquelynn Hollman, Psy.D, CSOTP, KPMT, Clinical Psychologist. Both have a wealth of experience in child trauma and are certified sex offender treatment providers. In the following interview, I had an opportunity to hear more about the unique offerings of this program.

Tell me a little about the STAR Program including the philosophy of the program and the intended outcomes?

The STAR program is a trauma-focused recovery program for children of sexual abuse, trauma, exploitation and trafficking who have demonstrated challenges with their behaviors. Our philosophy is that a relational approach to addressing trauma, its symptoms and subsequent behaviors is most effective in attaining positive outcomes.
What is unique about The Star Program? What do we offer that other programs do not?
The Star program combines the evidence-based approach pioneered by Alan Kazdin, Ph.D. (Kazdin’s Parent Management Training) with Trauma-Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Treatment addresses distorted beliefs and attributions related to the abuse while providing a consistent, predictable and safe environment where children are encouraged to address their traumatic experience. We recognize that children who have experienced sexual abuse manifest their struggles in many different ways. Our treatment approach helps children to examine the connections between thoughts, emotions, resulting behaviors and the impact of sexual abuse on body sensations. One of the components of the program that is unique is that it is not time limited. We are more focused on children demonstrating the increase of desired skills and the decrease of problematic or challenging behaviors. To that end, the program is not identified by a certain number of sessions or weeks, but rather tracks what the child is sharing (thoughts), feeling (emotions) and doing (behaviors).

How will the structure of the program be different from what is offered at the psychiatric residential treatment facility in Berryville?

One of the most important features of a treatment program is to offer safety to the child as well as those surrounding the child. To that end, the STAR program will be provided in a self-contained classroom and dormitory at the Berryville campus. There have been a number of physical modifications to the classroom and living area including the installation of cameras, sensors and other diagnostic appropriate features. Again, the idea is that children have to feel safe before they can examine and explore narratives of their abuse.

It can be difficult sometimes for parents to differentiate from “normal” sexual development/maturity to atypical sexual development. What signs does a parent, teacher or caretaker need to watch for that may indicate that a child has been exposed to sexual trauma?

Sexual behaviors are considered problematic when they:
• Are clearly beyond the child’s developmental stage
• Involve inappropriate use of sexual body parts
• Involve children of widely different ages or abilities
• Are associated with strong emotional reactions in a child—such as anger or anxiety
• Interfere with typical childhood interests and activities
• Place the child in unsafe situations and relationships, some of which might be facilitated by social media, internet websites and texting

If a child has been exposed to sexual trauma, is he or she more likely to be an offender or perpetrator?

No. However, it is important to watch for any signs or symptoms of traumatic stress. With the help of an assessment, an experienced clinician can help determine if a child is displaying signs of traumatic stress, depression or anxiety.

What are examples of successful intervention approaches? How can treatment help a child with sexual behaviors?

A successful treatment approach should be trauma-focused. It is also important that the approach addresses the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. A trauma narrative—talking about and making sense out of the abuse—is therapeutic for the child. Finally, a treatment approach that includes components of safety, boundaries, triggers and coping skills has proven to be effective.

If a parent is concerned about their child’s sexual behaviors, what should they do?

Speak to a licensed clinician who can help determine if there is a cause for concern. The clinician should have experience in treating child trauma including sexual abuse and will help determine if a child needs help.

When is the program scheduled to open at Grafton and who can I contact for more information?

The STAR program is scheduled to open in September 2016 at Grafton’s Berryville campus. You may contact an admissions case manager toll free at 888-955-5205 ext 6460 or 6461 for more information.