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Unintended Victims: Diagnosis & Treatment of Children of Domestic Violence
Children of Domestic Violence continuing education counselor CEUs

Section 6

CEU Question 6 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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In the last track, we discussed the three Adjustment Disorder Behaviors of Destructiveness, Chronic Lying, and Unusual Social Behavior, as well as two techniques of unfinished sentences and list-making to treat children with adjustment disorder.

In this track we will discuss the Yo-Yo Syndrome children can experience when moving from home to home to escape danger. This constant moving made Lucy, age 12, feel restless. Lucy stated, "I have a little bag full of some things that I need, like a hairbrush and some clothes. I never unpack it."

Enhancing the Yo-Yo Syndrome may be relatives who actually fabricate or falsify abuse to prevent the child from returning home. Lucy had a feeling of neglect because of her confusion regarding the whereabouts of her parents. She stated, "I feel no one cares about me. I'm not sure where my parents are. Are they living together this week or are they apart again? I lose track." In being moved from place to place, Lucy felt like a pawn or weapon used as her parents tried to retaliate against one another. In these Yo-Yo situations, I find that children need to maintain the two connections of siblings and self to help them through the difficulties of their violent family.

Connection to Siblings
Have you found, like I, that a brother or sister can offer a deep source of support and strength, even at a young age? Often a sibling is all a child has to hold onto as they are moved from home to home. I encouraged Lucy and her brother Jake, age 14, to be kind and respectful to each other and to talk to one another when they felt afraid. However, at the same time, as you know, I found it was also important not to require them to feel close to each other. I explained to Lucy that it was ok to be mad at her brother.

Connection to Self
In this yo-yo time when the child often has no belongings of their own, I have found connection to self is very important. I talked to Jake and Lucy about their interests, hobbies, and fantasies, and emphasized each child as a fascinating and unique individual. I encouraged Jake and Lucy to keep doing these things they enjoyed whenever they could, and try not to lose touch with activities that made them feel happy inside.

Technique: Clustering
With Jake and Lucy I used Gabriele Rico's clustering technique found in Writing the Natural Way. Clustering is desinged to allow the creative, intuitive part of the client's mind to generate new ideas about a subject. These are then organized into short written pieces Rico calls "word sketches."

In clustering, the client picks an issue about which he or she would like to learn more, such as "anger in my family." Then Lucy condensed this topic into a single word "anger" or "divorce" and wrotes it in a circle in the center of a blank piece of paper. This became her nucleus word, around which her clustering was organized.

Next, I had both Jake and Lucy put down all the associations they could make to the central word. Jake chose the word "divorce," and the three words connected to divorce were "saying goodbye to my dad, mystery, and scared." From the word "scared," Lucy attached the words "guilty" and "my fault." The client can branch out from the first idea to other related ideas in a string of associations. Each time you start a new train of thought, return to the nucleus word and branch out from there in a different direction. Keep adding to your cluster until you run out of associations.

After writing a passage starting from the word scared, Lucy said, "I never realized that I blamed myself for my parents' splitting up until I looked at that string of associations - scared, guilty, my fault." I have found many children of violence gain powerful insights from the clustering technique.

As mentioned earlier, clustering is designed to allow the creative, intuitive part of the client's mind to generate new ideas about a subject. I find children are attracted to the picture aspect of this activity. Lucy stated, "It's like make a word picture. I write a word, draw a circle around that word and see how it connects with other words. I never thought before how mad I was at them. I still feel somehow it is my fault."

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Callaghan, J. E. M., Fellin, L. C., Alexander, J. H., Mavrou, S., & Papathanasiou, M. (2017). Children and domestic violence: Emotional competencies in embodied and relational contexts. Psychology of Violence, 7(3), 333–342.

Daniel, E., Rodrigues, M., & Jenkins, J. M. (2019). The development of internalizing problems in early childhood: The importance of sibling clustering. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(4), 381–390. 

Henry, D. B., Tolan, P. H., & Gorman-Smith, D. (2005). Cluster Analysis in Family Psychology Research. Journal of Family Psychology, 19(1), 121–132.

Katz, M., Hilsenroth, M., Moore, M., & Gold, J. R. (2021). Profiles of adherence and flexibility in psychodynamic psychotherapy: A cluster analysis. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 31(4), 348–362.

Lai, C. C. S., Law, Y. W., Shum, A. K. Y., Ip, F. W. L., & Yip, P. S. F. (2020). A community-based response to a suicide cluster: A Hong Kong experience. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 41(3), 163–171.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 6
What is one technique you might use with a child experiencing the yo-yo syndrome? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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