CARE House Becomes First in the Region to Treat Children with Problematic Sexual Behaviors
It's official folks! CARE House of the Pee Dee now offers Problematic Sexual Behavior - Cognitive Behavior Therapy (PSB-CBT), an evidence based treatment for children who sexually act out. Prior, this trauma-informed therapy, which boasts a 98% success rate was only available in two locations within the state - both in the Low County.
Simply put - Problematic Sexual Behaviors are child-initiated behaviors, which are sexual in nature, developmentally inappropriate and may be harmful to the child or others. Examples include inappropriate sexual interactions with other children, public displays of sexual behaviors, and engagement with sexually explicit materials. "Children are curious creatures and begin to explore their bodies at a very early age. This is completely normal and developmentally appropriate. When we talk about Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB), we are looking at factors like frequency of the behavior, developmental considerations and of course, harm. If the behavior includes force, intimidation or coercion or if it elicits fear, it's time to reach out for support," says Alice Curry Gallego, Outreach Coordinator with CARE House.
According to national data, 20-25% of cases handled by Children's Advocacy Centers, centers which provide services to child abuse victims, involve a child sexually acting out on another child. These behaviors are common. They are serious - but fixable - and for caregivers looking for support: there is hope.
Research shows that with effective evidence based treatment, children with Problematic Sexual Behaviors can go on to lead healthy lives free of such conduct. According to long-term data from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center who developed the model, PSB-CBT has a 2% recidivism rate - meaning that long-term only 2% of children who have received the treatment go on to re-present the behaviors later in life. "PSB-CBT is evidence based treatment that has been shown to reduce the risk of future issues for a child - not only in terms of Problematic Sexual Behaviors, but also general behavior problems," says Casey Wilkes, LPCA, one of the therapists at CARE House trained in the model.
The treatment offered at CARE House is administered within a group model to children, ages 7-12, and their caregivers. Child and caregiver groups meet simultaneously for an hour each week and are led by a team of Master's level clinicians. "Sexual misconduct in children is not a predictor of any specific diagnosis or an indicator that a child will become a predator as an adult. Often children are exploratory and need to learn rules and skills to make an adjustment," says Andrea McConkey, a Master's level intern training in the model. According to McConkey, those adjustments come through learning sexual behavior rules, impulse control and other skills taught throughout treatment and practiced between sessions. "Technology has moved up the timeline significantly with regard to exposure to sexual material. In the parent group, we spend time supporting caregivers with how to educate their children on the topic of sex as the need for these conversations is present before many parents are ready to share," continues McConkey.
CARE House held its first group session of this school-age model in March and while the duration of the treatment is approximately 6 months, the open group approach allows families to join the group on a rolling basis following a clinical assessment. CARE House hopes to grow its services in the future to include both the preschool and adolescent models. A group of child-serving professionals, agencies and leaders meets monthly to receive training, share information and work collaboratively to make changes within their own agencies and the community to dispel myths and increase access to this life changing therapy.
CARE House is currently accepting referrals for PSB-CBT. Local agencies and providers can also request a presentation to learn more about Problematic Sexual Behaviors, the treatment model and the CARE House referral process.