What is the SITCAP Model?

SITCAP® (Structured Sensory Interventions for Children, Adolescents and Parents) is the model that TLC’s evidence-based trauma intervention programs, SITCAP-ART and I Feel Better Now! follow. The premise of this approach is that traumatic memories are experienced at a sensory level and must be reactivated in a safe environment in order to be tolerated and managed with a sense of power and a feeling of safety. Treatment includes a series of drawing tasks and specific questions that target the sensations which are most often experienced in a traumatic event (e.g., terror, fear, worry).
Activities are primarily sensory since trauma is experienced at a sensory level, not a cognitive level. However, interventions place those sensory experiences in a cognitive framework, which can then be reordered in a way that is manageable and empowering for children. This intervention is structured because with structure comes a sense of control and safety. Trauma-specific questions are used to help trauma survivors give their experiences a language to tell their story. Sensory activities are used to help the survivors make others a “witness” to what the experiences was like. Once those tasks are completed, the child can think differently about what happened. Cognitive reframing is scripted to ensure that the survivor is provided a way to make sense of the traumatic experience.

CASE EXAMPLE: Sophie is a 17-year old with a history of abuse, neglect, sexual assault and rape. The practitioner expressed curiosity by asking this trauma-specific question: “Of all that has happened that brought you here today, what was the worst part for you?” Sophie was encouraged to tell her story by drawing a picture. She described her worst experience as, “the rape, but not the rape itself… I am an outgoing, strong girl. I was the only girl on our school football team my sophomore year – I am tough! Every day I look back on the situation and just hate myself for letting the rape happen.”

Providing Sophie with an opportunity to tell her story through drawing was a turning point. In spite of months of “talking through” her rape with a very caring aunt and good friends, it was visual images and trauma-specific questions that led to a shift in her view of herself. Sophie looked up from her paper and said, “I did do everything I could do to try to stop the rape from happening. I wasn’t my fault.” The visual representation allowed Sophie to see that she did everything she could do to escape that situation and there was no longer a need to dwell on feelings of guilt.

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