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Healing in the Cottages: One Little Girl’s Journey

“Samantha” was eight when she came to Ryther’s Cottage Program with an extensive trauma history from birth to six years old. She witnessed gang and family violence and also was a victim of physical abuse. Initially placed in a Ryther therapeutic foster home after being removed from her home, she disrupted from the foster home due to dysregulated emotions and assaultive behavior toward her caregivers. She also was unsuccessful in school due to her frequent outbursts.

While the average length of stay is less than a year, Samantha was at Ryther for a year and a half. When she first began treatment she would fluctuate between extreme compliance with rules and extreme dysregulated emotions and behaviors. There were frequent dissociative trauma reenactments where she would become assaultive toward staff. Over time and with weekly therapy as well as immersion in the therapeutic milieu of the cottage, and a lot of support and structure, we saw her become more relaxed. She started showing some “in between” emotions and behaviors, such as being irritable and defiant, or sad and crying. She used her coping skills and worked hard on her treatment, bravely addressing her past trauma. Samantha’s PTSD symptoms decreased and she no longer dissociated. We called that “staying in her brain, heart and body.” It was a proud day when she went off to go to a neighborhood school instead of Ryther’s on-campus school. She has since left for another Ryther therapeutic foster home and is thriving.


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