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An Introduction to Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®)

Trust-Based Relational Intervention

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is a care model designed to help meet relational and developmental needs of children and youth impacted by trauma. TBRI considers the whole child—his or her brain, biology, behavior, body, and beliefs—and provides parents and caregivers with practical tools and insight to help their child(ren) reach his or her highest potential. And perhaps most integral, TBRI has connection at its core—the truth that connection builds trust, and trust builds healthy relationships.

Developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development (KPICD) at TCU, the TBRI model is built upon three guiding principles

Connecting Principles: Create connections that disarm fear, gain trust, and enhance learning.

Empowering Principles: Strengthen learning and regulation by meeting a child’s physical and environmental needs. 

Correcting Principles: Shape beliefs and behaviors effectively, so children feel safe, protected, and empowered. 

Children who have experienced complex trauma need parents and caregivers who are insightful, prepared, equipped, and committed for the long-term.

As Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “All children need to know that they’re precious and unique and special. But a child [who has experienced relational trauma] needs to know it more desperately.”

The following are practical questions, tips, and activities to help you reflect, remember, and act as you work to engage and build connection with your child and/or teen. 

Tips & Reminders 

Relational trauma impacts beliefs about the self, including self-awareness, self-regulation, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Use character praise to help change your child’s belief system about himself or herself by recognizing his or her character traits. Some examples include:

– “I love playing with you! You are so fun!” 

– “Thank you for sharing. You are really thoughtful.” 

– “You are so creative! That is a great idea.”

Positive experiences are essential for rewiring the brain while also contributing to the mind’s overall health. Each week, look for opportunities to introduce a new, positive experience in the life of your child or teenager. Include activities where engagement strategies (eye contact, healthy touch, behavior matching, play) can be incorporated, so you can further build connection and felt safety. 

– Have a family dance party.

– Paint together. (For littles, start with rocks, and for your older children, try pottery.)

– Explore together a new park or area of town where you can play, snap photos, or just be outdoors as a family.

Action Points 

Crossing the Midline

Cross-lateral movement refers to any time one side of the body crosses over the midline of the body to the other side. The right side of the body is controlled by the left side of the brain, and the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain. Practicing crossing the midline is a great way to get the right and left sides to communicate optimally. Ideas for younger children—that are also fun—include classic games like Hot Potato (but you must hold the object with both hands), Simon Says, and clapping games like Miss Mary Mack. For older children, consider tennis, baseball, or softball; washing the family car together (which also promotes connectedness); and even a game of Twister. 

Family Game Night

Card games (UNO, Go Fish), board games (Monopoly, Operation), chess, checkers, and puzzles are great opportunities to exercise the brain to help improve attention, coordination, concentration, planning, and more. Incorporate regular (weekly or bimonthly) family game nights for everyone in your home, keeping in mind varying skills and abilities. It can become a fun tradition and an excellent opportunity to foster connection as a whole family.

Hear from the Archambault family on how they incorporate TBRI into their day-to-day family life.

Register now for Show Hope’s 2023 Hope for the Journey Conference, premiering Friday, April 14, with on-demand viewing through June 30. Early Bird Special Pricing for both Individuals/Households as well as Churches/Organizations available now through October 31!

This is the first in a series of five blog posts. Also check out:
Understanding TBRI® Connecting Principles
Understanding TBRI® Empowering Principles
Understanding TBRI® Correcting Principles
Understanding The Gospel and TBRI®

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