In 2016, Sarah Roethlinger enrolled with CCFH to learn Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) as a licensed therapist with Youth Focus, a provider of emergency and transitional housing for children and adolescents in Greensboro. Though she was already an experienced clinician, the TF-CBT training opened her eyes not only to how much trauma was at the core of the crises they saw but also to the possibility of real, enduring healing from trauma.
“Before TF-CBT, I never knew that there was really a cure for PTSD in kids,” she says. “I always thought you could decrease their symptoms a little bit, but they would always be suffering at some point if they weren’t in therapy.” For Sarah, this had meant tempering her expectations about what she and her colleagues could accomplish in their work with the children in their care.
Even while still in training, though, she began to see extraordinary results. “Every case I worked with was successful,” she says, “and I worked on some really hard cases!” These outcomes were not just significant for the children she was treating. She also began seeing the real promise of healing within every child her agency served and feeling a desire to cheer them on – a desire she had never thought realistic in the past.
Sarah had her belief in the healing potential of TF-CBT reinforced recently when she ran into a young woman she had treated while in training. Sexual abuse as a child had made her a turbulent teen, perpetually being kicked out of school. Now, she was working a steady job and going to school. Her father had died in the past year – a trigger Sarah worried might have sent her spiraling back into traumatic stress – but the resilience she had developed through TF-CBT had kept her stable and healthy.
Sarah is now the executive director of Youth Focus, which has joined Alexander Youth Network, one of the state’s largest private providers of behavioral health services for children. Her leadership at the agency is permeated with the trauma-informed perspective and high expectations for what is possible in treatment that she learned in her TF-CBT training. She is also sending other members of her staff to train with CCFH in the year ahead.
“TF-CBT is going to rock your world,” she said to one of them. She’s not worried about setting such high expectations, though. She knows just how much is possible.