The Center for Child Protection, Travis County’s children advocacy center (CAC), recently completed a 15-month training process to become the first CAC in Texas to be site-certified in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), a ground-breaking approach to understanding and treating severely traumatized children.

The certification was made possible with the support of the St. David’s Foundation. In 2015, St. David’s awarded a grant to the Center for the Mental Health Improvement & Expansion Initiative to begin the process. This summer, the Foundation awarded a total of $33 million in grants focused on funding healthcare needs, including $480,000 to the Center over the next two years. With the continued support of the Foundation, the Center will incorporate NMT concepts into practice, conducting NMT metric assessments, intensive experiential interventions and building a therapeutic web of support in the community.

Established through The ChildTrauma Academy, a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of high-risk children, NMT is a developmentally sensitive, neurobiology-informed approach to clinical problem solving. This evidence-based practice approach provides the clinician with the ability to evaluate a child’s experiences, both positive experiences and traumatic experiences, through a neurodevelopmental lens. Specific recommendations of therapeutic interventions are identified based on the neurodevelopmental needs and strengths of the individual.

“We are extremely grateful to St. David’s Foundation for their continued support,” Barbara Jefferson, Center for Child Protection Clinical Director, said. “NMT has enhanced the way our therapists think and plan on behalf of our children. It has given us the tools to really individualize each treatment plan for each child. From yoga therapy to gardening, music and pet therapy, the possibilities are immense for these young victims.”

As part of the NMT assessment, clinicians will administer the NMT Metric, which uses the child’s history of adverse experiences, relational health factors, and current level of functioning, to determine how these factors may have influenced brain development.  Both the timing and severity of risk and resilience factors are plotted on a graph to generate an overall developmental risk estimate. Once developmental risks have been identified, the NMT Metric guides treatment planning. Additionally, the NMT Metric shows whether or not a child’s functioning is improving as a result of the intervention and can be used to determine and measure successful outcomes.

“Additionally, children who experience trauma at younger ages are more likely to require treatment that improves the functioning of the most primitive sections of the brain,” Jefferson said. “The Center is dedicated to experiential therapy practices to give victims range of options and the ability to regulate their mind and bodies after trauma.”

Lastly, the Center is dedicated to providing a therapeutic web and engaging a child’s entire system of influence. The Center will collaborate with teachers, childcare professionals and other service providers to ensure that therapeutic experiences are woven into all aspects of a child’s life.