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What Is the CASA Developmental Framework?

A prescriptive way of creating a therapeutic relationship, the Commitment, Acceptance, Security, Attunement (CASA), framework’s purpose is to developmentally heal and strengthen the functional, mental and physical health of teenagers, young adults, and their families, by creating joy that is experienced through co-regulation.

The CASA Developmental Framework is the neurobiological methodology for creating experiences of secure attachment.

This therapeutic approach is centered on developmental research which indicates that mutually beneficial attachment and secure relationships are necessary for a person's emotional, functional, physical and relational health.

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In short, CASA provides teens and young adults who have experienced developmental difficulties and disruption (i.e. developmental trauma), or overwhelming, traumatic stress in early childhood, with secure relationships that provide reliable and responsive care.

This leads to an increase of self-worth, reduction of shame, and the ability to find meaning in suffering which is defined as “joy.”

These secure relationships counter the core shame produced from:

  • Abandonment
  • Abuse
  • Early developmental disruption
  • Inconsistent caregiving
  • Neglect

That the teenagers may have experienced in their early life.

How the CASA Framework Leads to Joy

When a teenager or young adult with developmental disruption (i.e. trauma) begins to reliably and predictably experience CASA in a committed home, it emotionally, neurologically and physically builds experiences of self-worth and value, which enables a capacity for empathy, gratitude, humility and safe intimacy which are essential to experiencing joy.

This joy is accomplished when reliable caregivers (parents, therapists, etc.) provide their children with the following:

1. Commitment

Parent(s) or other safe relationships that are dedicated to doing what is developmentally best for the teen or young adult. Parents evidence their commitment through sending their child to a residential treatment center when maintaining developmental growth and safety are compromised. Commitment shows that parents are dedicated to the treatment process and the therapeutic work required to restore self-worth and trust in their child.

2. Acceptance

Commitment facilitates the caregiver’s ability to accept the child and embrace them as inherently valuable. Developmentally, healthy individuals require experiences of inherent value which is not contingent on behaviors. Though acceptance can be a difficult process for the parent of a teenager because expectations often block acceptance, accepting and recognizing that the child's developmental difficulties, including early trauma, is driving their behavioral, emotional and relational dysfunction. Accepting that teens and young adults with developmental disruption often fear trusting caregivers and suffer with anxiety and maladaptive behaviors as a means to cope, is a large part of treatment. It is only through acceptance that we can fully move toward the problem and effectively create change.

3. Security

It is only when children predictably and reliably experience acceptance in the form of boundaries, consistent and safe nurturing, and responsiveness from a trusted caregiver, that they internalize the experience of having inherent self-worth and value. The implementation and follow-through of safe parental care is the definition of security. Security is produced when caregivers are committed to doing what is developmentally best, accept the child’s behavioral, developmental and emotional difficulties, and reliably provides for the emotional, physical and relational needs of the child. The ability to accurately provide security for the child requires attunement from the caregiver(s). 

4. Attunement

Is empathy in action.  When a caregiver is committed, accepting, and able to provide security, they are freed up from anxiety and fear, and able to attune with the child. Attunement requires accurate responsiveness from the caregiver to see beyond the immediacy of the behaviors and embrace and accept the underlying distress creating the dysfunctional behaviors.  When attunement from a safe caregiver creates safety and a calming of the nervous system, then co-regulation begins to take root.  

Additionally, co-regulation, the reciprocal exchange of emotional, neurological and physical safety is important to the CASA Treatment Model as well.

Co-regulation occurs after repetitive experiences of commitment, acceptance, security and attunement are reliably created. Co-regulation is where therapeutic healing, trauma integration, and restoration of developmental health take place. The CASA experience is necessary for all individuals to develop a healthy ability to self-regulate. These reliable experiences of co-regulation are necessary for effective self-regulation.

Will Your Family Benefit From the CASA Framework?

Though your child may have experienced developmental difficulties, disruption, and/or trauma, with your effort and persistence and our clinicians' professional support, your daughter or son can benefit from CASA and learn how to self-regulate through the commitment, acceptance, security, and attunement necessary in co-regulation.

It is important to note, however, that co-regulation is a constant process and not a steady state.

Teenagers will often move along the cycle of CASA frequently as they experience or re-experience certain aspects of their previous traumatic history. Dysregulation can, and often does, occur, and it is within that moment, that we, as caregivers, must go back to fortify the CASA Framework to confirm that we are committed, accepting and providing safety to our children before we can accurately attune.

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