A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is being touted as evidence that some common treatments for trauma lack empirical evidence of success in helping children and adolescents. The study, which reviewed a small percentage of the available literature, found evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral treatment, but not for six other kinds of therapy, including what may be the most widely used interventions—play and art therapy.
But the data may not be as convincing as the researchers, and especially the mainstream media, conclude. The literature review looked at only a dozen studies, and neglected to consider a good body of evidence that does lend support for play and art therapy with traumatized children. Some books written on the subject include Empirically Based Play Interventions for Children, edited by Linda A. Reddy, Tara M. Files-Hall, and Charles E. Schaefer (2005); Helping Abused and Traumatized Children, by Eliana Gil (2006); and Contemporary Play Therapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, edited by Charles E. Schaefer and Heidi Gerard Kaduson (2008).
The CDC study can be examined here.
Meanwhile, a collaborative effort between the Swedish Red Cross and a team of psychological researchers from Haugesund University College in Norway has produced a large, longitudinal study on the effect of mass trauma on both children and adults. More than 500 Swedes were interviewed over several years after surviving the Indonesian tsunami of Christmas 2004. Researchers hope that their results—which so far have revealed a “complex process of grief” in survivors—will pave the way for a better understanding of trauma.
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