Trauma systems therapy (TST) is a therapeutic technique that helps children manage post-traumatic stress. TST examines all of the social factors and other external influences that contribute to the PTSD symptoms relative to the emotional maturity and capability of a child. In a new study, researchers from the Children’s Hospital Boston, in collaboration with a team from Ulster County Department of Mental Health in New York, applied TST to 124 children ages 3-20 to determine the long-term outcome of the therapy. The team analyzed hospitalization rates for the children prior to TST and after, assessing them at intake, six months and 12-15 months post treatment. They evaluated their levels of psychosocial functioning and emotional stability throughout the study.
The study revealed that TST had an immensely positive effect on the children. “Emotion regulation, social-environmental stability, and child functioning/strengths improved significantly with treatment,” said the researchers. “Improvement in child functioning/strengths and in social-environmental stability significantly contributed to overall improvement in emotion regulation.” Additionally, TST had sustained positive outcomes for the participants. “Children who became stable enough to transition to office-based services during early treatment tended to stay in treatment and continued to improve.” The most notable effect was the decrease in hospitalizations. The researchers said, “The number of children needing crisis-stabilization services at 15 months was reduced more than half for those who completed treatment.”
The benefits reach beyond psychological to economical as well. “Exploratory analyses show that post-implementation hospitalization rates dropped 36% and average length of stay decreased by 23%, suggesting that further exploration of potential cost savings is warranted,” added the team. “These findings underscore the clinical importance of intervention and long-term treatment to stabilize the social environment of children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress, and emphasize the potential cost effectiveness of an intensive, community-based treatment approach at the county level.”
Ellis, B. H., Fogler, J., Hansen, S., Forbes, P., Navalta, C. P., & Saxe, G. (2011, August 22). Trauma Systems Therapy: 15-Month Outcomes and the Importance of Effecting Environmental Change. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025192
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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