I was interested to meet Emily Alison at the recent CAADA conference where she was delivering a seminar on the new Fast TRaC programme she has developed for Trafford YOS, working with young people using violence to parents.
Emily has significant experience both in Britain and in USA in the probation services and in developing work around domestic abuse and violent offending. Her original Healthy Relationships Programme came about to fill a gap in preventative work for young people who had witnessed DA, following a realisation that teens were taking on the abusive behaviour once the perpetrator had left the household. Designed to build resilience and coping mechanisms, and to offer alternative models of thinking and behaviour, there is also the recognition that young people can not always wait until the experience of domestic violence is removed from their lives before receiving support; and that early intervention can help prevent patterns of violence transmitting to the next generation. The Healthy Relationships package has now been running for over 10 years, and the programmes are used by over 40 agencies in the north west of England, particularly within the education sector.
One of the strengths of the package is its adaptability. Initially designed for young men, it quickly became apparent that something was needed for young women as well. Originally intended as an early intervention programme, it is now used with children further down the line, with convictions for violence and abuse. There are two separate strands aimed at different age groups: Acorns and Changing Places, but with the recognition that functional age and development is a more important factor. They can be offered in large groups (eg school classes or groups) smaller group work in agencies, in family groups or one to one. And though the work started off solely for the children and young people, with no pressure or expectation of parental involvement, some parallel work has now been developed to meet a request from parents themselves for support and guidance, seen as offering a significant improvement in the delivery.
Emily strongly supports the need for pre-group work to introduce the concept, and prepare young people to participate in the sessions. The programme itself runs for ten core sessions, and then there are further follow-up meetings to review and reinforce maintenance of improvement. With a focus on cognitive skill development as opposed to specific behaviour change, and with an interactive delivery model, initial sessions consider emotional regulation, followed by problem solving work and understanding consequences and responsibility at the second stage. The programme then goes on to develop communication and interpersonal skills, before completing with positive goal setting work. Very positive feedback has been received, and a three year evaluation of the long term impact by the University of Liverpool is now underway.
Originally commissioned by Cheshire Domestic Abuse Partnership, the programme is now widely used by Cheshire Without Abuse, who importantly accept referrals from anyone, parent or agency for inclusion. They recently published a report into the work, which can be accessed here.
Most recently, Emily has been commissioned by Trafford YOS to design a shorter programme, which is now being piloted with Barnardos and in partnership with Troubled Families and Cheshire Children’s Services. Two separate strands target young people using violence in intimate relationships and those showing violence to parents. Fast TRaC (Trauma Resilience and Coping) adopts the same cognitive strategies, but uses specific Child to Parent Violence examples in the exercises and has more emphasis on individual skills. It remains to be seen whether the same success story can be maintained over the shorter time span, or whether the programme will need to stretch out again to accommodate the learning and cognitive development expected. It should be noted that this is a pattern that has been found around the country with a variety of programmes, where budgetary constraints and a desire to move individuals through, have eventually had to give way to the practicalities of work with real people.
For those wishing to use the package, Emily offers Facilitator training, examining the theory of the approach, style of delivery (motivational interviewing) and aims of each session, with a full manual of the programmes. Supervision is also available. Contact details can be found here.
I am always pleased to post details of intervention programmes as I hear about them. Those wishing to explore the use of intervention programmes should always make their own enquiries and satisfy themselves as to safety, efficacy and cost.