Dr. Perry’s Model

child trauma counseling
Child trauma victim

I thought this month I would share with you a positive story from Dr. Perry’s model (Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics) for children who have experienced trauma.

“As an adoptive mom and child welfare professional, I have seen firsthand the incredible power of Dr. Bruce Perry’s groundbreaking insight into trauma treatment. On a stifling hot June afternoon, I cradled my 11-year-old son in the backseat of the car, rhythmically patting his back and rocking him after he asked to take a break from a birthday party at the video arcade. Years ago, the party would have ended after a loud, frightening, and embarrassing meltdown, but this day, he placed his hand on his chest and consciously slowed his breathing; I continued to rock in a strong, steady rhythm. Watching the tears roll slowly down his face, I noticed his body start to calm and relax, and after a time, he looked into my eyes and said, “I’m sorry, Mom, it was hot and so loud in there, and the other kids were all getting so many tickets. I felt jealous in my tummy.” He continued to take measured breaths, sat up, and began to play with the squishy fidget in his pocket. He waved out the window to his friends as they streamed out of the arcade to head home. Yes, I knew my boy was far more challenged than his friends by big emotions and transitions. I knew that most 11-year-olds could cope with and even enjoy the flashing lights, noise, and excitement of a day at the arcade, but after years of struggling to change his behavior through sticker charts, consequences, and lectures, this was a huge victory. These 12 minutes of my son’s life were the convergence of cutting-edge neuroscience and years of research in the areas of attachment, child development, and trauma. This was the Neurosequential Model in action. This was healing.”

I hope you are asking: What are the basics of this method that can bring about such a change? Here is a short summary of Dr. Perry’s 6 R’s:

1. Relational (safe)

Relationships are critical in healing early trauma and broken attachments It is only in the context of relationships that a child’s most critical developmental skills are learned. Children with histories of maltreatment, neglect, chaotic caregiving, or broken attachments often struggle to feel safe, trust others, or participate in healthy relationships. Because of this, it is critical for adults who care for and work with traumatized children to prioritize relationships. Only when children feel safe and connected can they learn new skills, grow, and heal.

2. Relevant (developmentally matched to the individual)

Adversity and trauma cause children to have lagging skills in multiple developmental realms; for this reason, we must meet kids where they are. While it sounds simple, this is often incredibly frustrating for parents and professionals who feel children should perform at their chronological age level rather than their developmental age.

3. Repetitive (patterned)

Repetition is essential for creating changes in the brain. This neuroscientific principle is often expressed by the phrase, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Patterned, repetitive experiences are the basis of all therapeutic and educational growth. Caring adults must provide many opportunities for kids to strengthen their skills and experience safe and healthy relationships.

4. Rewarding (pleasurable)

The human brain is highly motivated by pleasure. We all understand that if an activity or relationship feels good, we want to do it. If it does not feel good, we are not likely to seek it out or may even actively avoid it. When children receive an intrinsic reward, they will typically return to the activity or relationship over and over, without the adult even prompting them. Reward leads to repetition!

5. Rhythmic (resonant with neural patterns)

Dr. Perry states, “One of the most destructive effects of trauma is when the stress response systems of the brain become dysregulated…patterned, rhythmic, repetitive activity can restore regulatory balance.” Patterned, repetitive activities get the body ready to learn by balancing and organizing the low brain. Remember, rhythm regulates.

6. Respectful (of the child, family, and culture)

All trauma-sensitive interactions must be based on a deep respect for the child, family, and culture. Dr. Perry states, “Marginalization is a fundamental trauma.” Dismissing or invalidating the experiences of an individual or group creates dysregulation and a lack of safety. Environments that foster respect for the whole child promote growth, healing, and resilience.

If you would like to read more about the NMT model of therapeutics please click on the link below:NMT and the Center

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