In November 2015, Excelsior opened an office in Sterling, CO dedicated to serving the youth and families of Logan County. In partnership with Family Resource Center and Logan County Department of Human Services (DHS), Excelsior provides services and resources to youth and families in this rural area, who otherwise may not receive the help they need.
Excelsior first decided to root down in Sterling after an influx of youth in crisis from the Logan County area were referred to Excelsior’s Aurora campus. After discovering that this was largely due to limited behavioral and mental health services in rural areas, we made a commitment to help Logan county mitigate this issue by providing services to their residents.
Understanding that behavioral and mental health services are most effective when we can provide treatment where it naturally occurs (in the home or community), we decided to open an office in Sterling rather than transport youth and families to our offices in Aurora or Denver. This not only helps increase accessibility of services for youth and families, but enables us to become part of the community so we can truly understand the issues they face.
To learn more about the many challenges rural areas face when it comes to mental and behavioral healthcare please read the article below, written by one of Excelsior’s Sterling-based Therapists, Rachelle Buchanan.
Cycle of Abuse and Trauma in Rural Communities
By: Rachelle Buchanan, M.A., L.P.P.
Driving out of the city towards the eastern border of Colorado I began to wonder about what makes a city rural. The definition of rural: “of or relating to the country and the people who live there instead of the city” (Merriam-Webster, 2016), leaves much to the imagination regarding how people live in a rural area. What does the access to housing, jobs, and healthcare look like? Are there good schools and recreational activities? What about crime rates and substance use?
Rural areas are often out of sight and out of mind for urban dwellers and I used to be one of them. When I was offered the chance with Excelsior to support families in rural Colorado, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more.
Rural Communities – Small Town Spirit, but Small Town Resources
When I began working in Sterling, CO, I was embraced by a community that was struggling with the same “urban” issues surrounding increased drug use, child abuse and neglect, and a high rate of poverty. The community faced challenges to provide enough resources to help with these issues including too few mental health professionals, doctors, and government agency professionals. The resources available, while making positive progress in the clientele they serve, were stretched thin. This rural community was utilizing all of the resources at its disposal to maximum benefit while understanding that more education, counseling, and wellness would lead to more far-reaching and lasting change. This dedication to each other as a community and small town attitude was bringing hope, healing, and support to more families.
The Cycle of Abuse & Trauma
In rural areas, professionals and government agencies focus on providing change for families by recognizing how the generational cycle of abuse and trauma contributes to the continued increase of substance use, abuse and neglect.
Generational abuse and trauma is when the same abusive behaviors are passed down through generations due to continued familial denial, acceptance of abuse as a way of coping with past trauma, and lack of education surrounding ways to cope with stress in the family and community. Poverty and past unresolved trauma in abusers also feed into the cycle by increasing stress and maladaptive coping strategies. Molly Castelloe explains this further by quoting M. Gerard Fromm who states in his collection of essays on traumatic transmission that “what human beings cannot contain of their experience—what has been traumatically overwhelming, unbearable, unthinkable—falls out of social discourse, but very often on to and into the next generation as an affective sensitivity or a chaotic urgency.” (Castelloe, 2014).
Children Learn What They Live
Add to the transmission of trauma the learned behaviors of violence and the community suffers. According to Maleve Decreane, children learn what they live and if children are experiencing violence they learn to cope with the violence (Decreane, 2009). Ways that children learn to cope include being silent about the abuse, to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation, to blend into the background, not to express feelings, not to acknowledge the tension at home, to expend a lot of energy avoiding problems, and to live in a world of make believe.
This type of coping in children feeds directly into the denial that the cycle of abuse thrives on leading another generation to suffer the traumatic transmission from the parents and grandparents before them. This type of abuse is compounded when the lack of resources for healing in rural communities is added to the situation. The cycle of abuse spreads like a plague in communities due to such qualities as trauma bonding, learned violence, and transmission of expectations of violence and abuse onto younger generations. Without adequate resources to allow healing for these families, the cycle continues to spread.
Rural Communities Taking a Stand
Rural communities are not sitting idly with the spread of violence, trauma, and substance use. Leaders in the community are learning about evidenced-based programs offered in urban areas that are allowing children and families to heal. These same leaders are replicating these programs in rural cities and counties to fight the cycle. With more resources available for families to manage stress, engage in education, and seek healing for past abuse and trauma, rural cities will begin to interrupt the narrative of denial which will lead to positive change in the cycle of abuse. Without denial, there can be no cycle of abuse which leads to different more healthy ways of coping and communicating between families and ultimately between members in a community. The positive mindset of community leaders and members will ultimately provide the type of positive change they wish to see for all families.
Excelsior Partners to Support Rural Community Efforts
Inspired by the dedication and resilience of these communities, Excelsior has eagerly joined the fight against rural violence and the cycle of abuse. In partnership with the Logan County Department of Human Services and the Family Resource Center in Sterling, CO, Excelsior is providing important services to youth and families in this region who are impacted by these issues.
By providing in-home individual and family therapy, along with High Fidelity Wraparound services and behavior coaching, Excelsior is educating and strengthening youth and families in this region. Supporting these families with in-home services that address challenges when and where they naturally occur provides tangible steps that empower them to achieve sustainable success. Additionally, Excelsior’s partnership with the Family Resource Center helps engage the entire community in helping their youth and families learn and grow.
For more information on Excelsior’s impact in Sterling, CO and our partnership with the Family Resource Center, click here.
Castelloe, M. S. (2014, May 28). How Trauma Is Carried Across Generations. Retrieved August 13, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-me-in-we/201205/how-trauma-is-carriedacross-generations
Cycle of Abuse and Power Control Wheel. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2016, from http://www.jchs.edu/jchs-voice-program-cycle-abuse-and-power-control-wheel
DeCraene, M. (2009). Generational Effects of Violence [PDF]. Elgin: Devry University. rural. 2016. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved August 12, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hacker