Effective Treatments For Child Traumatic Stress
The good news is that you do not have to worry alone. Traumatic stress in children is treatable and there are highly effective treatments available to help children and their families. There are different types of interventions that focus on acute (immediately following trauma), trauma-specific treatment (short-term and long-term) and intensive (in home, residential, hospital.)
Examples of Acute (immediately following trauma) Interventions to Help Children Who are Victims of Trauma:
- Provide support so that the child and family feel safe and secure
- Advocate a supportive role by caregivers and others
- Maintain healthy relationships with the child’s primary caregivers and other close relatives/friends
- Reduce unnecessary secondary exposures & separations
- Help the child to return to typical routines (such as school) as soon as possible
- Facilitate open but not forced communication with the child about his/her reactions to the traumatic event
- Focus on constructive responses
- Explain to child in developmentally appropriate terms
- Encourage and support help-seeking behaviors
- Create a supportive milieu for the spectrum of reactions and different courses of recovery
- Monitoring and/or referring child for a clinical trauma evaluation
Effective Interventions for Child Traumatic Stress
The following is a list of some treatments that are available in Connecticut. To find more effective intervention models for child traumatic stress, you can link to a National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices by clicking here.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
Treatments that research shows can reduce child traumatic stress are called “evidence-based treatments”. One of these evidence-based treatments available in Connecticut is called, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is a 16-20 session treatment model for children. TF-CBT targets children ages 4-21 and their caregivers who have experienced a significant traumatic event and are experiencing chronic symptoms related to the exposure to the trauma. TF-CBT is a time limited intervention, which usually lasts five to six months and involves outpatient sessions with both the child and caregiver. There has been strong evidence to support its ability in reducing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression in both children and their caregivers. The intervention is a manualized, phased intervention that helps the child develop and enhance their ability to cope with and regulate their responses to troubling memories, sensations and experiences. Over time, through the course of treatment, the child develops a trauma narrative that helps them tell their story in a safe, supportive setting. To find a TF-CBT provider in the State of Connecticut click here.
Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS)
Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) is a school-based group intervention that has been shown to reduce PTSD and depression symptoms and psychosocial dysfunction in children who have experienced trauma. Schools are increasingly viewed as a critical setting for the delivery of health and behavioral health services. In fact, the majority of children with emotional or behavioral health needs do not receive services; among those who do, approximately 75% receive services through their schools. The linkages between trauma exposure, physical health, behavioral health and academic functioning underscore the importance of integrating trauma-informed care within educational settings. To learn more click here.
The Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI)
CFTSI is a 4-6 session preventative model for children aged 7-18 in the days and weeks following a traumatic event or disclosure of a past traumatic event. The goals of CFTSI are to reduce traumatic stress symptoms, increase caregiver and child communication, provide skills for the child to cope with trauma reactions, reduce other external stressors on the child and assess the child’s need for longer-term treatment. To see a list of providers trained in this intervention, please click here.
Modular Approach to Therapy for Children with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, or Conduct Problems (MATCH-ADTC)
MATCH-ADTC is an evidence-based treatment designed for children ages 7 – 15. Unlike most treatment approaches that focus on single disorders, MATCH is designed for multiple disorders and problems, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, as well as disruptive conduct such as the problems associated with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). MATCH was developed by Bruce Chorpita, Ph.D. and John Weisz, Ph.D., ABPP. The model synthesizes decades of empirically based research on evidence-based treatments and strategies. To find a current list of provider agencies please click here.
Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET)
TARGET is an educational and therapeutic approach for the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). TARGET is based on a seven-step sequence of skills – the FREEDOM Steps – that are designed to help youth and adults understand and control their trauma-related reactions triggered by current daily life stresses. The goal in TARGET is to help youth and adults recognize their personal strengths using the FREEDOM Steps, and to use these skills consistently and purposefully when they experience stress reactions in their current lives. TARGET both empowers and challenges PTSD trauma survivors to become highly focused and mindful, to make good decisions, and to build healthy relationships. To learn more click here to go to the Advanced Trauma Solutions website.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach with two key components: a behavioral, problem-solving focus blended with acceptance-based strategies, and an emphasis on dialectical processes. “Dialectical” refers to the issues involved in treating patients with multiple disorders and to the type of thought processes and behavioral styles used in the treatment strategies. DBT has five components: (1) skills training; (2) individual behavioral treatment plans; (3) access to a therapist outside a clinical setting, homework, and inclusion of family in treatment; (4) structuring of the environment (programmatic emphasis on reinforcement of adaptive behaviors); and (5) therapist team consultation group. DBT emphasizes balancing behavioral change, problem-solving, and emotional regulation with validation, mindfulness, and acceptance of patients. Therapists follow a detailed procedural manual. For more information about this intervention, click here to go to the National Registry of Evidenced-Based Programs website.
Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that uses a structured eight-phase approach to address the past, present, and future aspects of a traumatic or distressing memory that has been stored in the mind of the victim as a dysfunctional memory. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories, reducing their lingering influence and allowing clients to develop effective coping mechanisms. To learn more about EMDR click here to visit the EMDR Institute’s website.
Child First is an innovative evidence-based model which effectively decreases emotional and behavioral problems, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among very vulnerable young children (prenatal through age six years) and families. Child First directly addresses these risks through 1) comprehensive, integrated services and supports to the whole family, which decreases risk and increases the capacity of the parent to nurture and support the child, and 2) home-based, parent-child intervention, which builds the nurturing relationship, protects the developing brain and optimizes child emotional development, learning, and health. The effectiveness of the Child First model has been rigorously researched through a randomized clinical trial, demonstrating markedly improved outcomes in child mental health and language, parental stress and depression, protective service involvement, and access to community-based services. To learn more about Child First click here to be link to their website.
Risking Connection® is a trauma training curriculum and training program, rooted in relational and attachment theory. It provides a framework for understanding the wide array of symptoms and behaviors that land traumatized people in a wide range of mental health settings. It complements with other techniques used to treat traumatized children such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET). Since its inception, the program has been implemented in independent living programs, residential treatment, and outpatient mental health, among other settings. This program is available in Connecticut through Klingberg’s Traumatic Stress Institute and to find agencies using Risking Connections as a training model, click here.