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Sunday, March 08, 2015

TBRI: Trust Based Relational Intervention

Dr. Karen Purvis in L.A.
I think it's safe to say that, typically, I am not a starstruck kind of gal.  I've randomly met or worked with a number of notables over the years, but, while I can deeply appreciate their skill or talent or achievements, I just don't get too excited about individuals.  They're just people after all.

But, I have to confess that little pattern of behavior is at an end.  I'm officially a groupie.  Not of a rock star or actor or Hollywood type, mind you.  This mega star is a doctor.  And she's well worth my adoration.

Who is she?  Dr. Karyn Purvis.

As I mentioned in this post, Dr. Purvis heads a team out of Texas Christian University and she's doing some AMAZING work with "Kids from Hard Places."  She and her team have developed something called "TBRI," which stands for Trust Based Resolution Intervention.

While it's specifically designed for helping parent kids who've had some sort of early trauma, like those who've been foster kids, or adopted or have had some sort of illness/loss/trauma in their wee little pasts, it's actually just sound parenting across the board.  Period.

And it's rocked my world!

One of our adopted children has a slew of diagnosis. . .Autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Epilepsy, Pervasive Personality Disorder, ADHD, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, just to name a few.  On paper, he looks like a mess.  Many doctors have pretty much written him off as a lost cause.

But after doing a bunch of reading, research, watching of training videos and attending a two day Empowered to Connect conference, I can honestly say that our lives have changed.  And entirely for the good.

The basic premise for TBRI is based on sound science. . .the way the brain works and develops and what happens neurologically when trauma or developmental deficits occur.  TBRI takes this data and has developed a way to encourage brain development in weak areas and to support further development in stronger areas.  It's all very science-y.

The upshot, however, is that we need to circumvent the established neurological patterns, forge new synapses between the areas of the brain and mentor the child as they learn to move from the 'flight, fight, or freeze' part of the brain into the frontal regions, where thought, reason and the ability to negotiate reside.  But how?

Enter TBRI.  In layman's terms, it's recognizing that underneath the child's undesirable behavior lies a need that they cannot articulate or negotiate for.  So instead of just giving consequences for yucky behavior, you need to look for an address the need, teaching the child along the way how to do it for themselves.

Sample:  A child is coloring at a table with other children.  She suddenly throws down her crayons, rips up her paper and kicks the kid next to her.  The typical parenting response would probably involve removing the child, putting them in time out and going back to the table to make sure the other kid was okay.  In TBRI, the assumption would be that the inappropriate actions of the child were based in some sort of need.  The goal would be to find out the need (perhaps, in this case, the child wanted a color that someone else was using), teach the child how to advocate for that need and do a 'do over' so the child has a body memory (similar to muscle memory) of doing the right thing.  Every time a child handles something well, even if it's in a do-over after doing something wrong, the body memory for the correct action is established and correct, appropriate brain synapses are formed.

To do this, though, we have to establish trust with the child.  They need to know that we are going to be consistent, help them meet their needs, and that they're precious to us.  Once we establish these with the child, we're already half way there.

In our family, we've been implementing (sometimes imperfectly and with a few slip ups here and there!) TBRI principles fully for about a month.  And the results are, frankly, dramatic.  Not only is our adopted son calmer, more amenable to correction, and generally less prone to any kind of outburst, but he's also sleeping better, able to concentrate more and is able to independently negotiate for his own needs.  All-freaking-ready!

So if you happen across Dr. Purvis in a coffee shop somewhere, LET ME KNOW.  I'd be there in a heartbeat with my autograph book and an eternally grateful heart!

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