The treatment approach of the Family Learning Program (FLP) is to provide group therapy for the entire family. Each member of the family will receive treatment which focuses on the issues of sexual abuse as they relate to that particular family member (i.e. parent, child victim of sexual abuse, or sibling).
Some families are surprised to learn that they will be involved in their child's treatment through group therapy. There are many reasons that make family participation an essential part of the sexually abused child's treatment.
One previous group member reported: "I felt very welcome by the people in group. It took me a few sessions to really open up and talk, but nobody pushed me, so I could go at my own pace." Other parents' experiences varied in that they began feeling calmer and more relaxed in group which facilitated their ability to express their feelings in group. In addition, non-offending caregivers also reported that they felt support and acceptance after attending the group. Some group members believe that the acceptance they felt is what led them to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings about their children's sexual abuse. For other group members it took more time; "I hated the first few groups. I felt out of place. Didn't want to talk at first. I just about gave it up."
"Share, share, share, thoughts, feelings: happy, sad, anger, frustration."
"A lot of support. Discussion and handouts on child behavior and possible resolutions, learning you're not alone and children are children. Learning to be aware of a child's behavior patterns... signs to watch for."
"We talk about anything really. We talk about things in our lives that we are bothered by or things we are happy about. If we have a problem, other people help us work through them. We also find out we aren't the only ones with these problems."
Given that group members usually report feelings of relief after speaking their minds or expressing their feelings, group leaders may encourage you to talk even if you do not want to. However, the control always lies with you and if you do not want to talk you do not have to. Previous group members state:
"You aren't pushed into talking in group. We are asked to 'check in' from the prior week, but if you don't feel like talking you don't have to."
"You can listen, you can talk, whatever feels best for you. This is for your needs! The more you talk, the better you'll feel."
"I say I don't want to talk and stand my ground! But they always talk me into talking."
One caregiver reported: "I have a real support network. If I have something I need to talk about I can, without fear of someone judging me. I also feel I can handle crises better."
In addition, other parents report receiving support, being believed, and relief from stress. Another caregiver reports that she has been, "able to talk about what happened without being made to feel guilty."
One caregiver reported: "I always thought this only happened to kids whose parents didn't care and to kids who were from families where there was improper upbringing."
Another stated: "My views haven't changed, but group brought more awareness of abuse: its causes, signs, effects, etc."
"Hold on. Counseling does help. And you're not alone."
"This is a safe place to be, to share, and to learn."
"Stick with the program. It is worth it."
"Give it a try, for yourself and your children. It might help, but it definitely can't hurt."
Toward the end of treatment at FLP, non-offending caregivers should be prepared to aid and support their children as they share their trauma narratives and social stories. Children who are victims of sexual abuse will complete a trauma narrative, and siblings will complete a social story as the culmination of all their hard work in FLP. The trauma narratives and social stories allow the children to share their experiences and express their thoughts and feelings, all in a safe and supportive environment. Typically, the children share their trauma narratives or social stories with the non-offending caregiver(s) and/or their therapist. The non-offending caregiver's job during this time is to listen and support their children as they share their story.