Child-parent therapy will make a difference for families in Sarasota

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As a parent, it can be difficult to watch a young child suffer from an emotional or behavioral disorder. You may feel helpless and alone, not knowing how to best help your child, but parents have hidden superpowers.

Child-parent psychotherapy – commonly referred to as CPP – is an evidence-based therapy that helps families heal after experiencing trauma. Therapists are able to establish a trusting relationship with the parent and child, and then use that relationship to help the family cope with the effects of trauma.

The treatment has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve communication and relationships, and promote healing and resilience. It is an effective treatment for children of all ages, but is increasingly effective for children 5 and under.

The goal is to help parents understand and respond to their child’s behaviors and emotions in order to promote healing and bonding. But sometimes the process can be beneficial for parents who have experienced trauma themselves. Negative childhood experiences can affect the way someone raises their child and can cause ruptures in a parent’s bond with their child.

Early Childhood Therapists play a vital role in helping families access CPP services by providing support and guidance throughout treatment. Unfortunately, specialized training in this area is expensive and time-consuming — and Florida has historically lacked the appropriate number of mental health professionals to meet service needs.

But thanks to a pioneering investment from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, our region has become a hub for this effective method of intervention. In 2019, the Barancik Foundation and the Florida Center for Early Childhood approached the FSU Center for Prevention and Early Invention Policy to develop a training pipeline for local child mental health clinicians in our region.

The partnership has brought some of the nation’s top child-parent psychotherapy trainers directly to the 12th Judicial Circuit to conduct a series of workshops and training programs. This is a big problem: before, there were bottlenecks to receive this type of training. Demand has been high across the country and trainers are in short supply.

Statewide, child-parent psychotherapy is the preferred intervention for early childhood courts, a problem-solving court model for children ages 5 and under who have been removed from their parents’ custody. due to abuse or neglect. We are currently working with the FSU Center for Prevention and Early Invention Policy on a statewide plan to train more than 250 clinicians in five years.

While it was an instant win to have dozens of practitioners training locally, the impact of this program will create a lasting ripple effect. A broader goal of this effort was to create a “train the trainer” approach. Four participants from various parts of the state – including one from here in Sarasota – were selected to undergo apprenticeship training. They are now officially approved to train other therapists statewide, making Sarasota one of the leading providers of this therapy in Florida.

This will create greater access to this effective intervention and also ensure sustainability in a high turnover field. This is a big win for Sarasota and Florida, and we are excited to see the return this investment will have for families who will benefit in the future.

Kristie Skoglund is the CEO of the Florida Center for Early Childhood

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