Carroll Martin, LCSW earned her Master of Social Work degree and Master’s Certificate in Violence & Injury Prevention from Washington University in Saint Louis and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Elon University in NC. Carroll was trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) Children with Sexual Behavior Problems (CSBP) at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Greater St. Louis. Carroll began her career in supporting children and families escaping and healing from domestic violence. Carroll has experience working in the community in an outpatient setting providing therapy to families who had experienced trauma and violence as well as school-based therapy in high risk areas. Carroll has worked with children with sexual behavior problems, physical and sexual abuse, and facilitated psychoeducational groups around trauma and sexual behavior problems. Much of her work with clients overlapped with children, adolescents and adults who had been a part of the foster care system. Carroll has experience working with clients (children, teens, and adults) who have challenges managing symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety as well as unresolved grief and loss.
Carroll was featured recently as C.A.S.E.’s Therapist Spotlight, sharing helpful insight for adoptive parents.
Q: How do you work with children/teens and their families when there is a history of sexual abuse?
A: The most important goal I have in treating youth who have a history of sexual abuse is to focus on promoting the sense of safety: safety of their bodies, safety in their home, safety in relationships. Children and teens who have experienced sexual abuse have had their sense of safety violated, and it is most often by people who they trusted and who were supposed to protect them. I work with foster and adoptive parents to help normalize many of the sexualized behaviors they might see at home and understand what is developmentally appropriate and what may be a response to the trauma their children or teens have experienced.
In the beginning of treatment, I educate and guide families to become comfortable in using the correct terminology for body parts because this helps to reduce confusion and normalizes the terms (for example, using the terms vagina and penis rather than “cookie” or “Peter”). Parents are also encouraged to support their children and teens by empowering them with important messages: “Only you can give permission for someone to look at or touch your private parts, including parents and doctors!” Caregivers are encouraged to always ask for permission to touch their children, even to give them affection of any kind including hugs and kisses.
I also assist parents around their concerns when they find that their children are curious about sex earlier than other children because of what their children have been exposed to. This can be really scary for parents and re-triggering for the children. By creating a safe and comfortable space at home to talk appropriately about body parts, puberty, sexuality, parents are able to build trust with their children. This trust helps to build safety in their relationship with their children for continued discussion about healthy relationships and personal boundaries.
At C.A.S.E., we find that the youth we work with are quite resilient and when parents are able to understand and communicate with their children around the tremendous impact of the trauma of sexual abuse, the kids are able to thrive and enjoy healthy relationships with others. I encourage families to seek professional guidance from an adoption-competent therapist if you have a child or teen who has this trauma history.