This week’s episode of 60 Minutes will feature a segment by Oprah Winfrey on childhood trauma, specifically looking at how adverse childhood experiences early in life can lead to physical and mental challenges later in life.
Winfrey focuses on the research of Dr. Bruce Perry, head of the Houston-based Child Trauma Academy, and the programs that have begun to absorb the lessons of his work into service models to help children and families. It is a major piece of publicity for a neuroscientist that has quietly become one of the most important people in youth services.
When it was first published, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey (ACES) study landed with a metaphorical thud. It wasn’t until a decade later, after tireless rounds on the speaking circuit by authors Robert Anda and Vincent Felitti, that the study’s findings began to take root in child welfare policy.
Perry’s work attempts to take that 50,000-foot view and bring it down closer to the ground. ACES supplies evidence that trauma begets bad outcomes; so how do we undo the effects of that trauma to avoid the bad outcomes?
Perry’s research has helped birth the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), a process to determine the right ways to address an individual child’s trauma. It is not a specific intervention, it’s more of a method for determining the right intervention or interventions.
Click here and here to read more about it, but the nutshell version: trauma affects responses to stress, and relationship-based therapy can help rewire the cortex to better handle stressful situations. Winfrey will also feature a couple of Milwaukee-based programs that have built NMT into their service models.
The Child Trauma Academy has also built an expanding network of trauma-specializing affiliates around the country to amass a major database that charts brain development and performance against various types and levels of trauma. The hope is that this databank can become a vital cog in gauging how successful different strategies, models and programs are.