Five Key Areas Identified in Successful Trauma Treatment

Various therapeutic approaches are used in the treatment of trauma symptoms. The methods most commonly used differ in technique, but all share the same goal of minimizing the negative symptoms that are caused by experiencing a traumatic event, such as posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Numerous studies have been conducted on the types of treatments available and how they affect symptomology. Several factors influence treatment outcome regardless of the type of treatment used. For example, it has been shown that individuals who have experienced extended periods of trauma, such as childhood sexual abuse, may have difficulty achieving positive outcomes. Also, research has shown that some people show evidence of PTSD symptoms immediately following a traumatic event, while others do not experience difficulty with their emotional well-being until years or decades after the trauma has occurred.

All of these factors emphasize the need to address the symptoms of trauma as soon as possible. For children who have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, their trust in others may be eroded, making it challenging for therapists to work with them in traditional ways. Pamela J. Black of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna, Canada, sought to determine what strategies were the most effective for working with children and teens who had survived trauma. She researched a wide variety of studies on therapies designed to address trauma and concluded that there are five key aspects that predict successful outcomes.

First, the most beneficial therapies, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) all begin by educating the client as to the goal of therapy through psychoeducation. Second, coping skills, such as relaxation techniques, meditation, and breathing exercises are taught. Next, the therapist works with the client to create a recollection, or narrative, of the trauma. This is done in written or oral form and sometimes through other forms of creative expression. The therapist then helps the client cognitively restructure their beliefs related to the trauma. This allows a client to transform their old feelings and reactions related to the traumatic event. Finally, a posttreatment plan is developed. Clients are encouraged to use the tools they have acquired to gain control over aggressive and negative behaviors when their traumatic memories are triggered. Black concluded by saying, “The authors of this article strongly encourage the use of TF-CBT to help reduce trauma-related symptoms among children and adolescents.”

Black, P. J., Woodworth, M., Tremblay, M., Carpenter, T. (2012). A review of trauma-informed treatment for adolescents. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028441

Related articles:
9 Ways to Be Present and Practice Everyday Mindfulness
Healing from Trauma: Moving Out From the Shadow of Trauma
From Victim to Survivor to Thriver

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  • Erin

    July 19th, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    These tips for successfult trauma treatment? These could be applied to any successful therapy program, period.

  • Hyland

    July 19th, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Where I think that a lot of people run into trouble is that they are not encouraged to develop a good plan that they can follow AFTER their therapy is over. It is great to sit and talk about all of the ways you think that you have changed and how these things will benefit you in real life. But learning how to make these things a part of your daily life can be tricky for anyone. Doing things in practice and then doing them in reality are completely different situations, and they both take a lot of patience and practice. Alot of people get frustrated when they do not experience success immediately and that is when they give up and fall back into their old ways.

  • M.Grant

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    The features of TF-CBT sound like it is a perfect therapy technique! the reason I say this is because trauma is something that can stay in a person’s mind for a long long time and its effects could be long lasting.

    So instead of pushing the patients through a course where they may temporarily feel better and then telling them the course is over, it is far more rewarding to actually teach the clients how they can continue to practice the things long after the treatment is over. This is important because cases of trauma are often prone to a relapse and then the condition could get worse after a relapse. preventing a relapse and also teaching the patients ways of coping with the issues on hand is the perfect method.

  • Rhianna H.

    January 15th, 2019 at 8:59 AM

    My foster sister suffers from a lot of trauma in her past, and we’re considering getting her some therapy to help her overcome that. It’s good to know that the most effective methods of treating trauma include educating the person on the goals and using psychoeducation, and we’ll definitely be sure to look for that in the options we consider. Coping skills, of course, are an absolute must in any treatment method, as the anxiety that the trauma gives my sister can be very crippling and being able to cope with and overcome that is a major reason we want to get her treatment.

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