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
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