KIFS Dedicated Therapist Jackie Unkrich

Jackie with her newborn neice

Jackie with her newborn neice

Jackie is one of KIFS’ dedicated therapists who is currently training in TF-CBT (Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). She is also an aunt to a sweet little baby girl with whom she spends as much time with as possible!

Jackie is a CSW (Certified Social Worker) with a MSW (Masters of Social Work). Jackie went into social work because she grew up volunteering and found joy in helping others. We asked Jackie a few questions about her recent therapy certification and her work at Kentucky Intensive Family Services.

What is TF-CBT?

According to the TF-CBT Certification Program:

TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment that has been evaluated and refined during the past 25 years to help children and adolescents recover after trauma…TF-CBT also effectively addresses many other trauma impacts, including affective (e.g., depressive, anxiety), cognitive and behavioral problems, as well as improving the participating parent’s or caregiver’s personal distress about the child’s traumatic experience, effective parenting skills, and supportive interactions with the child. - Read more

How does your work with TF-CBT impact the children at KIFS?

TF-CBT has eight components for processing trauma and all the children we work with at KIFS has experienced trauma. The process is beneficial because a lot of kids don’t know how their experience has affected them. Psychoeducation teaches them how they can get perspective on what has happened. Most children don’t know what trauma is, how to define it, so when you explain trauma they open to a whole new avenue for healing. 

When children are not aware of trauma some of them can function but other kids exhibit behaviors such as anxiety or depression. The impact of trauma depends on the child’s ability to cope and process what has happened. 

How often do you meet with foster children in KIFS families? What does a therapy session look like?

KIFS therapists meet with every child in our program once a week. We lead them through developmentally appropriate ways of understanding their experiences. We use the foundations of TF-CBT like, psychoeducation, relaxation skills, affect recognition, cognitive processing, trauma narrative, in vivo mastery, conjoint child and parent sessions, enhancing personal safety, and future growth.

For one of the groups James (KIFS therapist) and I are working with, we are creating games to teach the educational aspects of TF-CBT. We created a Jeopardy-style game that teaches the three parts of the brain associated with TF-CBT. Our categories were “The Brain”, “Limbic System Reactions” and “Trauma”.

Explain the importance of understanding the limbic system.

“Limbic System Reactions” has three main reactions - fight, flight, freeze. These are responses to trauma. For example, say you are getting into an argument, if you have experienced trauma your limbic system is more alert and you can’t access critical thinking to avoid situations where like fight, run away, or freeze. When we teach the children about the impact of trauma it helps them to begin the process of healing. In order to get the cerebral cortex (which allows us to think critically) working we are teaching the children coping skills such as breathing. Deep breathing allows oxygen to reach the brain and allows the cortex to start working again. 

All of KIFS staff are involved in constant trainings in order to better serve our foster families and ultimately change lives and make our community and world a better place for everyone.

Nicolette Meade