Elena and Juan Hernandez both seem to have experienced maltreatment in their childhood years from their parents. Although the intention of their parents was to discipline them, the look on their faces as they narrate their experiences to the counselor suggests that they were traumatized to some extent. By address their past, they will lean to cope with the symptoms of their trauma and ultimately reprocess their memory so that it does not have a strong grip on them.
While exposure to severe experiences in childhood increases the risks for mental, psychological, and emotional issues, many people with abuse in their history continue to grow to become well-adjusted adults. But in the case of the Hernandez, now that they have a family, it is important that they get past their issues so that they can adopt better, healthier ways of disciplining their children without inflicting unpleasant effects on their psyche. This is because as a couple, they both experienced an adverse event that still affects them toady and may continue to affect them in their parenting. The counselor can assist the Hernandez in understanding the way childhood trauma works.
Childhood trauma may lead to a wide range of emotional symptoms throughout the individual’s life; however, in general, childhood trauma may cause symptoms in adulthood. One of the symptoms is substance abuse which helps the individual to avoid their problems or numb their pain. Another symptom is intrusive memories, thoughts, or flashbacks (Keck School of Medicine, 2017). When one dissociates, they may shut down and refuse to react in difficult times, they may daydream, or withdraw. Intrusive memories can lead to bad dreams. From an emotional perspective, the individual may desensitize themselves from feeling, which can lead to a detachment style of relating with people and situations. They may also experience anger, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and shame (Keck School of Medicine, 2017). On the behavioral side, one may display symptoms such as substance abuse, excessive sleep, insomnia, and avoiding people and places that remind them of their pain (Keck School of Medicine, 2017). The Hernandez’ family counselor can help the couple address some of these issues by examining the family tree deeper. For adults who pull through adverse childhood experiences, the thought of going back to that place may cause uncertainty.
However, it is still important to speak to a counselor or get some form of treatment because childhood trauma does have lasting effects even though one might want to assume that it does not. Trauma leads to maladaptive thinking and unhealthy coping strategies that cause poor decision-making and cumulative life-consequences. Most people exposed to bad experiences in childhood abuse substances so that they can avoid dealing with painful feelings or as a way to self-medicate against the pain (Keck School of Medicine, 2017). Individuals who seek treatment like the Hernandez couple will learn healthy coping mechanisms and this will mean a happier life going forward, cultivating healthier relationships, avoiding the snowballing effects of bad decisions, freedom from anxiety and depression, including thoughts and behavior that characterizes unresolved trauma.
Even though a wide array of personal and group techniques have been applied in the treatment of adults who have had unpleasant childhood experiences such as; cultivating affect-regulation technique, self-support techniques, discovery and desensitization of trauma, cognitive treatment, and emotional processing, evidence of their efficiency is not too well known (National Research Council, 1993). Most experimental studies involve consumer assessment of therapy, changes in the extent of mood disturbance, social adjustment and relational problems, assertiveness and guilt, psychological health and overall sexual performance (National Research Council, 1993). Research has explored the indicators associated with positive treatment results in adults that experienced childhood trauma. The idea of treatment in the area of child mistreatment should only include treatment that is therapeutic in nature (National Research Council, 1993). This would allow adults to be more forthcoming in seeking treatment for their past trauma. The factors taken into account in the process of positive treatment include a support system, education, motives and expectation, and the severity of the abuse (National Research Council, 1993).
Self-help treatment and support programs are founded on the premise that individuals can gain from learning about the abuse that others have experienced. Elena and Juan can both learn from each other’s experience and support one another (National Research Council, 1993). Treatment interventions for physical abuse like the couple experienced as children can help them change as parents to that they do not use the same harmful approach to discipline on their children. It also helps to change the home environment (National Research Council, 1993). The good thing is that treatment services include experiential findings that utilize ecological and developmental approaches of child maltreatment and evaluate the interactions members of the family. The genogram will help the counselor to explore the interactions of the Hernandez family. It will help to understand Anthony and Sofia’s and Hector and Frida’s perception of their children, any characteristics that may have hampered their parenting abilities, and their emotional responses to demanding or hectic child rearing situations.
A family system approach to treatment will target the psychological dynamic relationship in families. Rigorous home-based interventions and family preservation services directly match with environmental and developmental theories of mistreatment and offer services that the whole family needs (National Research Council, 1993). A parental enhancement program concentrates on training potentially abusive parents or abusive parents, for example, through effective discipline techniques, childrearing, and self-control, for example, anger control (National Research Council, 1993).
- “Chapter Seven – Distress Reduction and Affect Regulation Training.” (2017). Keck School of Medicine USC. Retrieved from http://keck.usc.edu/adolescent-trauma-training-center/treatment-guide/chapter-7-distress-reduction-and-affect-regulation-training/
- National Research Council. (1993). Understanding child abuse and neglect. National Academies Press.