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Healing together

School-based group therapy helps youth deal with traumatic experiences

July 02, 2013 College News - La Causa, Inc. received funding from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP) in 2009 to implement a

In honor of MCW’s 120th anniversary, we will be sharing stories like this one that highlight the College’s contributions to creating healthier communities. A new web page commemorating MCW’s 120th Anniversary  includes links to a display of milestones in our history and a list of nearly 200 significant research discoveries made by faculty physicians and scientists throughout the years.  These discoveries have saved lives and improved health in our community, in Wisconsin and beyond. 

school-based mental health program focused on helping students deal with the serious traumas they had experienced in their young lives.

“The program started because of a need,” Chyra Trost, La Causa’s Director of Social Services, said. La Causa, Inc. has provided educational and supportive services for more than 40 years with the aim of nurturing healthy families and stable communities.

The name of the project funded by HWPP, Nuestros Ninos, Nuestro Futuro, is Spanish for Our Children, Our Future. A branch of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment managed by the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), HWPP funds public and community health improvement initiatives in which community organizations partner with MCW faculty.

“The name speaks to the project because addressing traumatic experiences at a young age allows children to grow up healthier,” Trost said.

Trost and her team selected a model for helping students with trauma that was developed for use in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“CBITS is the model, and it stands for Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools,” Tim McGuire, La Causa’s Social Services Programs Manager, said. “The basis of the intervention is how thoughts affect feelings and behavior, and to really get into those negative ways of thinking.”

The school’s staff members saw how the intervention helped students.

“I’ve interacted with teachers, and with the school counselor at La Causa,” McGuire said. “They could see a difference in the way the kids behaved.”

Trost and McGuire partnered with MCW’s Julia Dickson-Gomez, PhD, who led the project’s evaluation. Dr. Dickson-Gomez found that the intervention reduced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and symptoms of depression.

“She is a great partner,” Trost said. “Her team did a wonderful job with the research piece, which we value because of the results that we can show regarding our outcomes.”

These outcomes represent lives changed, and are underscored by another research project Dr. Dickson-Gomez is working on in Milwaukee.

“Many of the interviews we’ve done with gang members reveal significant amounts of trauma in early childhood,” Dr. Dickson-Gomez said.

“You can’t help but think, what would have happened if there had been some way to address these traumas in schools.”

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Page Updated 07/23/2013