Zac was 10 years old when he was referred to KidsAid. Zac had experienced a breakdown of several foster placements and there were concerns that another placement was at risk as his most recent carers were struggling to manage his behaviour.
Zac’s assessment identified attachment difficulties, emotional dysregulation, heightened anxiety and low self-esteem.
KidsAid recommended Zac have 30 sessions of creative psychotherapy to help him process the trauma of his earlier years, and 6 sessions of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to support him find appropriate coping strategies to manage his feelings.
At the end of Zac’s one-to-one therapy, it was recommended that Zac and his carers have 20 sessions of DDP (Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy) together using PACE (playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy) to improve their relationship and support their attachment.
To start with, Zac would push the boundaries in his sessions and become easily frustrated with his therapist. Zac would also become very frustrated with himself if he thought he’d failed when playing a game, or his artwork didn’t go as he expected. Zac and his therapist spoke about these incidences and reframed the way he viewed this. His frustration throughout all stages of his process was acknowledged, validated, and normalised to enable Zac to move past these negative feelings of himself.
As the weeks continued, Zac became more comfortable with verbalising his feelings, and as he became more open, his therapist reflected back to him, to show that his feelings were important and he was being heard, which led to Zac’s self-esteem improving.
By the end of the intervention, Zac was able to discuss his feelings. He was also able to transfer the CBT strategies he’d developed in his therapy to other areas of his life. At Zac’s interim therapy review meeting his carers reported that there had been a couple of instances where Zac had become frustrated but was able to remove himself from the situation and use breathing exercises to calm himself down.
The attachment therapy further supported Zac’s emotional regulation as through the DDP sessions his carers were given tools to help Zac manage his emotions when experiencing a trauma response. In these sessions, Zac and his carers also found new ways of relating and communicating which strengthened their attachment, and increased Zac’s sense of safety.
Throughout the therapy intervention, SDQ (Strength & Difficulty Questionnaires) were completed by Zac’s foster carers. These were scored at the beginning, middle and end of Zac’s therapy and showed a vast improvement in his emotional wellbeing.
At the final review meeting Zac’s carers reported that his anxiety had significantly reduced, and he was able to manage stressful situations in a healthier way. Furthermore, as Zac’s relationship had significantly improved with his carers, both Zac and his carers expressed their wish for the placement to become permanent, which will offer Zac further stability for the remainder of his childhood.