Tiempo de Volar Helps Heal

Tiempo de Volar Helps Heal


Healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse is difficult regardless of who you are or where you’re from. But it can feel impossible to many migrant survivors. Language barriers, complicated systems of criminal justice, and the belief that asking for help could very well jeopardize your personal or family safety are a few reasons many migrant survivors simply carry their trauma burden alone.

KCSARC is constantly seeking ways to make our services more accessible to those they’re intended to serve. As of September, KCSARC has helped well over 500 Spanish-speaking survivors, already more than we served in all of 2017. An innovative new group therapy program called Tiempo de Volar (A Time to Fly) is helping some of these survivors get their lives, hopes, and dreams back after surviving childhood sexual abuse, whether that abuse happened in the country they left or after they arrived in the United States.

The trauma of childhood sexual abuse can last into adulthood, even a lifetime. Effects of that trauma often include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Untreated, these issues can affect daily functioning, such as the ability to have focused concentration, mood dysregulation, and sleep issues which can then impact the ability to form relationships, learn new information, or hold a job.

KCSARC brings its deep experience in helping survivors regain their lives through therapy and applies that to this approach that is specific to the experience of migrants. Participants, with the assistance of one of our licensed, professional native Spanish-speaking therapists, are guided in sessions to acknowledge the trauma they experienced in a culturally competent and sensitive way. This approach acknowledges not only the trauma of the abuse itself, but the additional significant barriers and vulnerabilities that are part of the migration experience. 

Each group consists of six to eight women, who commit to the group for eight to 12 weeks, depending on needs of the group. Participants can participate in individual therapy in addition to the group, but most do not.

Survivors in group share in the company and lived experience of others, all of whom speak their language and can identify with cultural barriers to healing, making group an effective stand-alone treatment.

How does it work? First we need to understand that a survivor’s experience and trauma reactions often misinform their view of themselves and the world around them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that encourages patients to challenge distorted thoughts and change patterns of behavior. CBT forms the basis of treatment for this new program.

But there’s an important difference.

In order to be effective, CBT presumes a client brings a certain skillset that is usually developed as part of traditional western culture via formal, classroom learning experience. These learned methods include the ability to tell a story in a linear manner, or to draw inferences from more abstract concepts. This classroom experience is frequently missing or incomplete in the background of survivors this program was developed for.

So instead, Tiempo de Volar incorporates images, metaphors, and storytelling to help participants understand and heal from their trauma. For example, the group begins with the image of a butterfly, representing the difficult migration journey many participants have had to make in their lives. This provides the basis for discussing common experiences among the group’s members.

Another session centers on the image of a tree to cover concepts that sexual abuse may affect you, but isn’t who you are. Members are guided to consider the sturdy, rooted trunk as their own immutable core self, while leaves and branches represent experiences and pieces of their lives that change over time. A treasure chest is one of the final metaphors for the positive traits that each participant grows to understand they possess.

The first group has just wrapped up, and Tiempo de Volar is showing promising outcomes already:  Using a standardized measure of emotional health taken prior to, during, and after completing the program, all participants show a marked decrease or outright elimination of trauma symptoms.

Groups are still forming, and there is no cost to participate. Contact the Dando Voz Client Care Specialist (Spanish) at 425.282.0324 for more information. All calls are confidential.