Real Life Heroes (RLH): Resiliency-focused Treatment for Children and Families with Traumatic Stress

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. This program has been reviewed by the CEBC in the following Topic Areas:

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About This Program

Target Population: School-age children between ages 6-12 and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events, have a breakdown in emotionally supportive relationships, and show symptoms of traumatic stress/Complex Trauma including high risk behaviors and developmental delays; can also be used alongside other programs to engage/sustain engagement of children and caregivers with Complex Trauma, intellectual deficits and developmental delays

Brief Description

Real Life Heroes (RLH) provides practitioners with easy-to-use tools including a life storybook, manual, multi-sensory creative arts, yoga, ‘improv,’ and mindfulness activities, and psychoeducation resources to engage children and caregivers in trauma treatment. Tools and procedures were developed with children and adolescents in a wide range of child and family service programs including children with Complex PTSD who lacked stable relationships with caregivers they could count on to provide a safe home and work with them in therapy and children referred for high-risk behaviors that threatened the safety of children, families, organizations, and communities. RLH helps practitioners reframe referrals based on behavior problems and blame into a shared ‘journey,’ a ‘pathway’ to healing and recovery focused on restoring (or building) emotionally supportive and enduring relationships and promoting development of affect regulation skills for children and caregivers. To do this, the model utilizes the imagery of the ‘heroes journey’ and stresses the importance of engaging caregivers and a collaborative team of caring adults working together with an integrated trauma and resiliency-centered framework to help children with Complex Trauma. Creative arts and shared life story work provide a means for children and caregivers to develop the safety and attunement needed for re-integration of traumatic memories coupled with development of increased security and affect regulation.

Program Goals:

The program goals of Real Life Heroes (RLH): Resiliency-focused Treatment for Children and Families with Traumatic Stress are:

  • Increased well-being and safety for children and caregivers
  • Rebuilding (or building) of emotionally supportive relationships with caregivers committed to nurturing, guiding, and protecting children and decreased likelihood of temporary placements or psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Self- and co-regulation development for children and caregivers including cognitive, emotional modulation, focusing/concentration, and social skills and decreased likelihood of high-risk behaviors including self-abuse, suicide attempts, and aggression to others
  • Trauma memory reintegration matched to the child and caregivers’ capacity
  • Development of a positive self-identity for child linked to child’s family and cultural heritage
  • Prevention and management of disruptions of important relationships

Contact Information

Richard Kagan, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Training Programs on Traumatic Stress

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: December 2015

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: November 2017

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: September 2012