May 25th, 2011

DaySpring: Building a different kind of safe haven

A new residential treatment centre offers abused teenage girls a customised therapy programme.

By Han Xu

A safe environment that provides structure and support – this is the sort of therapeutic experience that DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre believes will benefit teenage girls who have experienced the trauma of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Launched earlier this year, DaySpring is the first residential treatment centre in Singapore that caters exclusively to abused girls aged 12 to 16. It is the brainchild of Cathy Livingston and Dominique Choy, who are, respectively, the Clinical Director and the Management Committee Head of DaySpring.

Both felt that a more focused therapy programme for abused girls in Singapore was needed. Currently, such girls typically end up in children’s homes and shelters that also house minors with a wide variety of behavioral issues unrelated to abuse. As a result, those with problems stemming from a history of being abused may not get the kind of support they need to begin the process of recovery.

DaySpring, which is housed in a Turf Club Road bungalow, is hoping to change that. It took two years of research and planning to get the centre up and running, and it is currently funded by private donors as well as the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS). Parents whose daughters are residents at the centre also pay maintenance fees. Most of DaySpring’s current residents are referral cases from MCYS Child Protection Unit.

A key feature of DaySpring’s treatment programme is its small number of residents, which ensures that each girl gets sustained attention from staff. There are no more than 12 girls living at the treatment centre at any one time, and each stays for about 6 months.

This level of attention is particularly important because “a lot of these girls just cannot handle their emotions”, notes Ms Livingston. “They have that survival protective instinct – a lot of that is expressed through anger, withdrawing, or attention-seeking behaviour.” To help the girls effectively, staff members have to learn as much about them as possible in order to understand their behaviour.

The therapy programme focuses on teaching these teenagers how to build trusting relationships. Residents also follow a detailed timetable of activities, as the structure helps to help them feel safe, says Ms Livingston.

Under the centre’s values-based level system, each girl also has certain requirements she has to fulfill for each level before she can move on to the next one. These requirements include goals related to relationships, academics and behaviour. The staff also strives to give each girl a lot of positive reinforcement about how she is performing at each level. For example, for every piece of negative feedback that a girl receives, she will also get five affirmations.

The purpose of this structured programme is to build confidence and to shift the girls’ perception of the world, “from an external locus of control where outside things are controlling you, to an internal locus of control where you are controlling yourself”, says Ms Livingston.

Find out more about DaySpring here.

Comments are closed.