The CARE Model

I developed the Compassionate Assessment of Reaction to Experience (CARE) model as a method of supporting teachers, clinicians, and care providers in better understanding the symptoms and needs of trauma-exposed youth. This model draws from The Four Assumptions, and has been shared with clinicians, foster parents, and school districts throughout the Western United States.

Typically, incorporation of the CARE model into conceptualization and treatment planning is a sequential process, where a child’s presenting problems are first evaluated in a non-judgmental, strengths-focused light. Underlying experiences, concerns, and treatment needs can then be further explored, eventually leading the the identification of strengths-focused (and effective) treatment interventions. The CARE model is as follows:

Compassionate Assessment of Reaction to Experience (CARE)
A strengths-focused model of case-conceptualization for trauma-exposed youth

Review: The Four Assumptions

  1. All children naturally aspire to be successful.
  2. Children pursue this goal the best they can, under the circumstances (e.g., genetic, environmental, relational) they experience.
  3. A child’s symptoms (ineffective, maladaptive behaviors) are not flaws within the child himself/herself, but instead reflect survival behaviors adapted for previous, unsafe environments.
  4. By introducing children to safe environments/relationships and teaching new skills for navigating these healthy contexts, we can facilitate their natural striving for success.

CARE Process for Understanding Challenging Youth

  1. What are the child’s primary symptoms?
  2. How can we frame these symptoms as adaptive behaviors and/or strengths? How might they support the survival of a child suffering from an unsafe or toxic environment?
  3. Based on numbers 1 and 2, what can we hypothesize about the type of environment(s) and challenge(s) that this child has experienced?

  4. What interventions can we provide in order to:
    1. Provide this child with a new, safe environment that counteracts the narrative of their previous experience.
    2. Support their successful navigation of new, healthy environments?
    3. Channel their existing strengths and adaptations into a more positive direction?

Copyright Julian Nolen, Ph.D. (2017)