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Sanford Health Dakota Children's Advocacy Center:


Behavioral health services

Specialized trauma-focused behavorial health services are offered to the child and family to help them cope with the trauma and to assist them through the healing process. The Sanford Health Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC) believes that child victims of sexual and physical abuse need comprehensive evaluation and treatment, and that these vital specialized services should be accessible regardless of ability to pay. Our behavorial health services provide assessment and treatment for children and families affected by trauma. The therapist can also provide resource information.

Making a referral

Caregivers and team members and other referral agencies are welcome to call the DCAC at 701.323.5626 or 800.932.8758. Appointments will be made for the earliest opening for an intake. Please be prepared to provide demographic information of the child, caregivers and reason for the referral as well as insurance information and the child’s Social Security number. Reimbursement for services is accessed through third-party payers, grants and crime victim’s compensation funds. Families are never billed for services. Alleged Offenders are not allowed at the DCAC and cannot participate in behavorial health services.

Where will behavorial health services occur?

Most counseling sessions are conducted at the DCAC, located at 200 E. Main Ave. #301, Bismarck, N.D. However, some group services may be held other locations and will be listed on their informational flyer. Our therapy rooms are child/family friendly and developmentally appropriate to meet the communication needs of all children at different ages.

What behavorial health services are available?

The DCAC utilizes evidenced based behavorial health therapies including Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing along with a variety of expressive techniques (i.e. play, art, yoga) to create a safe, supportive treatment environment. All steps of the therapy process will be thoroughly discussed with the child, the caregiver, and the person making the referral. Once a referral is made, the therapist will set-up an initial meeting with the caregiver, at which time the caregiver will sign consent for services, client rights, and release of information forms as well as provide and in depth history. Children under the age of 12 should not come to the first session. The DCAC currently offers:

  • Therapy services to children who have been effected by trauma
  • Therapy services to family members of children effected by trauma
  • Therapy services for adults who have been effected by their own trauma
  • Therapeutic skills groups for children and adolescents

What is therapy?

Therapy is a unique opportunity for an individual to meet with a trained professional who is willing and able to work to establish goals for treatment and to develop a pathway toward achieving those goals. For children who are coming to therapy with a history of physical or sexual abuse, this process also uses research-based treatment that has been proven to be effective in coping with trauma. Occasionally, a child may leave a session feeling temporarily worse before realizing the full healing effect. Therapy relies on the child’s willingness to be open, to participate in the process, and the family should feel welcome to voice any concerns, discomfort, and scheduling issues with the therapist.

A caregiver’s role in therapy

Caregivers are expected to participate in the child’s therapy in order to add to the child’s sense of support in the healing process. Typically the caregiver will be brought into the end of session so the child can teach the caregiver what they have learned and the therapist can update the caregiver on how the child is doing. Caregivers need to be informed of and support the skills the child is learning so they can reinforce them and help them practice the skills at home. Visiting with the therapist also gives the caregivers a chance to update the therapist on how the child is doing at home, at school, and to receive support. Participation and support are a vital aspect of therapy at the DCAC.


Consistent attendance is necessary to promote positive change in therapy. We recognize that there may be times that families cannot attend a scheduled appointment. We ask that you call the office within 24 hours to reschedule the appointment. Please ask about our Attendance Policy for more information.

How can the therapy program assist the MDT members?

The DCAC therapy staff regularly consults with the multidisciplinary team about interviews and cases. These discussions may include information about a child’s developmental stage, response to trauma, or the disclosure process. In addition, a therapist is often available to meet with caretakers during interviews to assess family functioning, provide support, and obtain corroborative information. A therapist can provide a critical link between investigation and prosecution by filling service gaps that often occur when working with children and families.

Assisted animal therapy

The DCAC has a registered therapy dog on-site. When available, Maggie greets families, spends time with children in the waiting room, sits in on forensic interviews, and joins in on individual therapy sessions. Maggie can also provide a welcome distraction while children undergo physical or sexual assault examinations. Staff will meet with the parent/caregiver to get consent prior to the children partaking in an interview with her.
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