The emotional and psychological impact of violence on families is devastating, and yet an inadequate patchwork of counselling services for victims puts Canada near the bottom of developed countries for helping families deal with the loss and pain of the death or serious injury of a loved one due to violence.
A new partnership between York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research and the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation (CCVF) is a collaborative effort to deal with this critical service gap for an often overlooked or forgotten population that is very vulnerable and has unique needs.
With the help of a donation of $50,000 over two years from the CCVF, York is likely the first university in Canada to be able to offer its graduate students in clinical-developmental psychology training toward certification in trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy (TF-CBT). This is an evidence-based treatment that combines psycho-education, traumatic narration cognitive restructuring and stress management skills to help children and their parents or caregivers overcome the negative effects of trauma and traumatic grief. This educational initiative is seen, by the York University Psychology Clinic and the LaMarsh Centre as a first step in creating a centre of excellence for the delivery and study of trauma services, with a special focus on the victims of violence.
As part of their certification training, the 28 participating Clinical-Developmental Psychology graduate students will each provide free supervised clinical counselling services to two families who have either lost a family member to violence or who have had a family member experience a violent attack. This free counseling service provided through the York University Psychology Clinic under the supervision of experienced registered psychologists will provide 40 families with much needed support for up to a year. In addition, trainees who are close to graduating, will soon be taking their new knowledge and skills with them into the community and their clinical practice, thus promoting awareness of the needs of victims, and of the proven methods that can help address these needs.
The initial student training took place over two days on April 10 and 11 with a reception for the trainers, students and officials with the LaMarsh Centre, York University Psychology Clinic and the CCVF held on April 11.
“This is the gold standard for treatment for traumatized children and their caregivers,” says Dr. Erna Olafson from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the National Traumatic Stress Network in the U.S., who was one of the trainers. “There are still few of us available to train because TF-CBT is so new, so in Canada, York University is a
pathbreaker and a pioneer.”
“We are extremely grateful for the financial support provided to us by the CCFV,” says Dr. Yvonne Bohr, Director of the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research in the Faculty of Health at York. “This sponsored training opportunity will equip our students to become practitioners in the best researched and empirically supported treatment for young victims who have experienced trauma.”
For Joe and Lozanne Wamback, the founders of the CCVF, the partnership with York has both a professional and personal resonance. In 1999, their son Jonathon was beaten and nearly lost his life. From their own experience and close relationships with many other victims, they established the CCFV in 2001 to give victims of violence a voice as they have learned that Canadian victim services are sporadic and under- funded at best. The partnership with York “is a huge step forward,” says Joe Wamback. “It’s a vision my wife and I have had since our son was hurt and this program will have massive social benefits for families and children.”
“This training is incredibly valuable,” says Dilys Haner, a PhD student in clinical developmental psychology, who participated in the training. “It opened my eyes to new treatment possibilities and it’s great that we will be able to offer specialized services that may not be available elsewhere in Toronto.”
About the partners:
LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research
For 31 years, the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research has been a critical hub for research, education and knowledge aimed at reducing violence in the lives of women and youth. Over the years, the Centre gradually expanded its mission to support community-engaged interdisciplinary research in health, education, relationships and development of infants, children, adolescents, emerging adults and families everywhere.
Canadian Crime Victim Foundation (CCVF)
Since 2001, the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation has served as an important voice for the rights and well-being of families who have endured the loss and pain of the death or serious injury of a loved one due to violence. Working with the justice system and service providers, the CCVF helps thousands of victims every year find the strength and resources to overcome their personal tragedies.
York University Psychology Clinic (YUPC)
YUPC is a state-of-the art community mental health and training centre associated with the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health at York University. The clinic provides a range of leading edge, effective mental health services to keep people of all ages living healthy, productive lives.