In the Spring of 2011 two of us Somatic Experiencing® Practitioners began a collaboration to bring SE® to the Sonoma County agency for Children’s Protective Services (CPS). We believed that SE services, tailored to the agency setting, might cost-effectively improve family outcomes— as I wrote about in my previous blog entry, “SE for Kids: An Opportunity Unfolding.” David Van Nuys, the host of Shrink Rap Radio, recently interviewed us about this project. In the interview, my collaborator Jerry Allen and I describe the Somatic Experiencing Brief Stabilization Model we created for CPS. We also discuss our pilot program and explore the challenges inherent in the CPS setting.
Here’s a little more detail that builds on what you’ll hear in the interview. Our project began when we recommended Somatic Experiencing to Jerry’s supervisor at CPS, suggesting that it might prove valuable as an alternative approach for the families the agency serves. We started by offering a two-hour introduction to SE for the social workers at CPS and to Jerry’s supervisor.
In that intro, we briefly described activation, settling, and nervous system dysregulation. We explained how even a small improvement in caregiver self-regulation may improve family outcomes. Interspersed throughout the presentation, we offered the participants some brief experiences of settling. Among the others, Jerry’s supervisor truly understood the principles since he could experience SE’s positive impact viscerally— and thus he became a huge ally for us. At that point we began working with Ariel Giarretto, our SE faculty mentor, to develop the Somatic Experiencing Brief Stabilization Model. Through this model, we focus on cultivating self-regulation without trauma renegotiation in a brief series of 7 to 14 sessions. In order to visually describe our approach, I created a logic model that details interventions, obstacles, and desired outcomes.
Due to an impressive success with one of the agency’s client families we conducted a pilot program with six additional CPS client families. Three of the seven total caregivers completed their series of SE sessions (which is actually a strong completion rate, given the circumstances commonly experienced among CPS families). Of those three caregivers, results were quite good: their CPS cases were all ultimately dismissed. During this process, I completed the extensive program development necessary for the SE Brief Stabilization Model to receive an official “Emerging Practice” designation in Sonoma County.
What’s next? We would like to conduct a fifty family program evaluation in order to expand our data set and refine our model. So we are looking for other agencies where this model might fit. Candidates include any well-funded, forward-thinking agency that provides direct services to its clients, including child welfare agencies, community counseling clinics, foster family agencies, and community medical clinics. The appropriate agency must be geographically located with access to a community of SE practitioners who are willing to offer sessions within our SE Brief Stabilization Model. With your assistance in spreading the word— and by connecting us to agencies and SE Practitioners eager to implement this new program— we know we can expand the web of families committed to improving their lives.
Author Suzie Gruber, M.A. holds advanced degrees in chemistry and psychology. She spent 15 years in biotechnology before returning to her first love, helping people transform their lives. A Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in private practice in Sebastopol, California, Suzie leads workshops that help people become trauma informed while piloting an effort to apply SE to the child welfare setting.
Jerry Allen, MFT, MPH has a lifelong interest in resolution of stress, conflict, and development of healthy families and communities. He is a psychotherapist, health educator, musician, and a third-degree black belt in aikido. Currently training in Somatic Experiencing, his 24 years in child protective services centers around helping families who are undergoing abuse, stress, violence, and addiction. He has a private practice in Sebastopol.
Photo by Roamme