Partnership gives students trauma counselling training

From left, Louise Hartley, director of the York University Psychology Clinic, Yvonne Bohr, Joe and Lozanne Wamback of the CCVF

A partnership between York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Child & Youth Research and the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation (CCVF) will provide much-needed training in trauma counselling for psychology graduate students.

Through a $50,000 donation from the CCVF over two years, 28 clinical-developmental students at York will receive training toward certification in trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy (TF-CBT).

“York is likely the first University in Canada to formally train its graduate students in TF-CBT, providing them with highly specialized, evidence-based skills for their future clinical practice,” says Yvonne Bohr, director of the LaMarsh Centre for Child & Youth Research.

From left, Louise Hartley, director of the York University Psychology Clinic, Yvonne Bohr, Joe and Lozanne Wamback of the CCVFRight: From left, Louise Hartley, director of the York University Psychology Clinic, Yvonne Bohr, Joe and Lozanne Wamback of the CCVF

The initial training in TF-CBT took place recently. This approach is what one of the trainers, Dr. Erna Olafson of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the National Traumatic Stress Network, called “the gold standard” for treatment for traumatized children and their caregivers. “There are few of us to train others because TF-CBT is so new, so in Canada, York University is a path breaker and a pioneer,” Olafson says.

The training could have important implications for the delivery of trauma services to victims of violence in this country. The CCVF puts Canada and its inadequate patchwork of counseling services for victims near the bottom of developed countries for helping families cope with loss and pain as a result of violence.

Dilys Haner, a York PhD student in clinical-developmental psychology who underwent the first-part of the training, said it “is incredibly valuable” and that York is offering specialized services that may not be available elsewhere in Toronto.

Joe Wamback talking with studentsLeft: Joe Wamback talking with students

TR-CBT is a well-researched treatment that combines psycho-education, trauma narration, relaxation and stress management and other techniques to help children and their parents or caregivers overcome the negative effects of trauma and traumatic grief. It is the only one of 23 reviewed interventions to be chosen by the United States Office for Victims of Crime as an effective treatment.

The partnership with CCVF follows last year’s $25,000 donation to the LaMarsh Centre for Child & Youth Research in York’s Faculty of Health to study the impact of extreme violence on victims and their families.

“It is a huge step forward,” says Joe Wamback who formed the CCVF with his wife Lozanne (BSc Spec. Hons. ’77), following a 1999 near-fatal assault on their then 15-year-old son, now a York student. “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.” CCVF helps give victims of violence a voice. It was started after the Wambacks learned through personal experience that Canadian victim services are sporadic and underfunded at best.

“This is an important first step toward our goal of becoming a centre known for its excellence in the delivery and study of trauma services for victims of violence,” says Bohr. “There is a critical service gap for an often overlooked population that is very vulnerable and has unique needs.”

Each of the graduate students receiving the training will provide free supervised clinical counselling services to families who have either lost a family member to violence or who have had a family member experience a violent attack. This free counselling service provided through the York University Psychology Clinic in the Faculty of Health under the supervision of experienced registered psychologists will offer much needed support to victimized families.

“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,” says Bohr.