How Can We Treat Traumatized Children?

What kind of impact does exposure to traumatic events have on children?   While the trauma that children in different parts of the world might experience can include childhood physical and sexual abuse, surviving a natural or political disaster, or being a witness to a wide range of violent events, the psychological impact that trauma can have on children can vary widely.   Since trauma responding is often subjective, there can be a wide variety of ways that a child can react to being traumatised.   What influences how a child might respond to the trauma includes:

  • the length of tie that the traumatic event is experienced (a single event that is over quickly is less likely to have lasting effects than long-term traumatic exposure)
  • severity of the traumatic event (experiencing or witnessing extreme physical or sexual violence)
  • availability of support resources available to the child afterward, whether through informal or formal social support services

While some children are able to experience traumatic events without apparent ill-effects, the long-term consequences for many children can be serious, whether by developing later psychological problems or even physical problems including substance abuse, personality problems, depression, or suicide.

But what type of treatment works best for childhood trauma?  A recent article published in Canadian Psychology provides a comprehensive overview of the different forms of treatment available for children and adolescents who have had traumatic experiences.   Written by a team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia and Kelowna, B.C.’s  Youth Forensic Psychiatric Services,  the article points out that research into how effective different treatment methods for dealing with adolescent trauma is still fairly limited compared to similar research in treating traumatized adults. 

To read more, see my new Psychology Today post,

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