Do Therapies For Childhood Trauma Help?

Of course, there are therapies that help come over childhood trauma. The right therapy can be of immense help to heal with the traumatic experience such as abuse, natural disaster, neglect, and sudden loss of loved ones.

What is Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma is an event that poses a threat to the safety of a child. It can include any event that can be frightening, dangerous, and violent.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), more than two-thirds of the children report experiencing childhood trauma at one time in their life.(1)

Some children do not heal from the trauma and live their life in a constant state of stress.

The trauma can be anything that includes:

  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Homelessness
  • Racism
  • Refugee or war experience
  • School violence
  • Military stressors

How Does Childhood Trauma Affect a Person?

Childhood trauma affects people in different ways.

In preschoolers and elementary-age children there is:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Aggression and anger
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiousness and fear
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Nightmares

In teens the signs of childhood trauma are:

  • Irritability
  • Academic problems
  • Feeling depression
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Guilt and shame
  • Withdrawal in social activities
  • Increase in behaviors like sexual activity, alcohol, and drug abuse

Female adults who experience sexual abuse as teens or children show post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) signs such as shame, fear, guilt, self-blame, humiliation, and chronic physical pains.(2)

Adults with PTSD because of childhood trauma can struggle in their job and interpersonal relationships as well as their own mental health. The emotional, physical, and behavioral signs that may signal a need for therapy are:

Signs that a child needs therapy are:

  • Bedwetting
  • Reenact the trauma while playing
  • Cling to the parent or other adult
  • Stop talking

Older teens or adults may show the following signs:

  • Become disruptive
  • Become vengeful
  • Have feelings of guilt

Therapies that Help Recover from Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can show adverse effects immediately or in the future. Treatment can identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and decrease the symptoms.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT), a type of cognitive behavior therapy, is the first choice when treating patients with PTSD.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 12 sessions of this therapy are recommended for people with PTSD.(3)

The therapy involves education regarding PTSD thoughts and emotions and trauma and skill development to identify and address unhelpful thinking related to traumatic events.

Trauma-Focussed Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Trauma-focussed cognitive behavior therapy is a sub-type of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

It is effective in children, teens, and adolescents with significant emotional difficulties. Its typical duration is 12-15 sessions.

Eye Movement Sensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is another therapy that is used for the treatment of PTSD. Repeated eye movements are used in it to re-pattern memories from a trauma.

This therapy involves eight phases including history, preparation, assessment, treatment, and evaluation.

EDMR is an empirically validated treatment to address unprocessed memories related to adverse life experiences and trauma.(4)

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)

Narrative exposure therapy is an alternative to TF-CBT and can also be used in children with PTSD.

It is an effective way for treating people with multiple traumas. The focus of this therapy is on embedding trauma exposure into an autobiographical context called timeline, which remains with the patient even after therapy is over.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)

Prolonged exposure therapy is a subtype of cognitive behavior therapy and is used more in the treatment of PTSD than any other mental health condition.

During the session, the therapist confronts the trauma-related memories, fears, feelings, and situations. Before the exposure begins, the therapeutic relationship needs to be stable.

Play Therapy

Play therapy targets children between the ages of 3-12 years. It is a therapeutic power of play that helps the children come out of trauma.

The therapist can observe the child during the play and use age-appropriate behavior to address trauma and develop coping strategies.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a creative expression to address and heal traumatic events. The medium includes drawing, coloring, painting, collage, and sculpture.

This therapy provides an outlet without words.(5) It can help improve cognition, foster self-esteem, reduce conflict and stress, and cultivate emotional resilience.

Therapies help lessen the impact of childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, natural disaster, and serious accidents or life-threatening illnesses.

Addressing these issues can reduce the risk of developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression or chronic conditions.

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