The UCLA Family STAR (Stress, Trauma, And Resilience) Clinic provides evaluation, consultation, prevention, and treatment services for children and family members affected by trauma and other challenging events, including medical illness, traumatic loss, community violence, disasters, and combat deployment stress. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a traumatic event can be used to describe an experience that was scary, threatening, dangerous, or violent. The event can either happen to someone directly or they may witness something happening to a loved one, normally these events include experiencing an injury or harm. At the UCLA Family STAR Clinic, a team of psychiatrists and psychologists work with families to help them understand and overcome the residual effects of a traumatic event. By working with the family as a unit, the clinicians have the ability to teach skills that help families become stronger and more resilient.
The following case study serves as an example of the types of cases that are seen in the STAR Clinic and highlights the ways STAR Clinic providers help families to build a narrative timeline. Working together to create these narrative timelines allows families to see the traumatic event from different perspectives and also helps them to understand and accept where a family member is coming from on an emotional level. While families work on the narrative, the provider assists them with building skills such as effective communication, conflict resolution, and the ability to discuss feelings.
The Car Accident
Blanca and Paul arrived at the STAR Clinic with their two daughters Sarah and Claire. The family had recently experienced a car accident where Claire, the youngest daughter, was severely injured. Interestingly, it was the older sister Sarah who was still experiencing extreme episodes of anxiety, despite her more minor injuries. The anxiety was especially acute whenever the family would visit her sibling in the hospital.
During their sessions at the STAR Clinic, the family worked on their narrative timelines. Separately, the parents worked on their timeline and the two girls constructed a time map. Both of these activities were combined during later sessions to create a complete family timeline of the event. Turns out, before the accident occurred Sarah forced Claire to switch seats with her. Shortly after the switch, a truck hit their car at an intersection. Claire’s seat turned out to be the most dangerous and she incurred the greatest injuries. While creating the time map Sarah expressed the guilt that she felt for, as she saw it, putting Claire in danger by being selfish. She described how these feelings put her in the “red” whenever the family visited the hospital. After hearing this Claire replied, “It was not your fault that we got hit by that car, it was the other driver’s fault.”
The creation of the timeline was what allowed Sarah to voice her feelings for the very first time. This open communication helped her family understand where she was coming from and provided an opportunity for them to talk with Sarah about her feelings and relieve her of her guilt. In addition to building and discussing their narratives the family was also provided with psycho-education, treatment services, and consultations to help them overcome the effects of this event and learn new skills to promote positive interactions with each other.
This is just one example of how the STAR Clinic works with families to help them to overcome trauma and other psychological challenges. The clinic serves as a resource to families receiving medical services at UCLA, as well as, families in the surrounding community. If you would like to refer a client to the clinic, please visit http://uclahealth.org/refer or call 310-825-7573.