PTSD and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Many children are exposed to traumatic events before they even become adults. All around the world they are exposed to child abuse, rape, natural disasters, terrorism, car accidents, and school violence among many others. Studies have shown that these traumatic events, if left untreated, can result in significant psychological problems, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other anxiety disorders, depression, or a number of other behavioral difficulties (Cohen, Mannarino, Berliner & Deblinger, 2000). These difficulties can become chronic and produce negative effects which could last into adulthood. It is therefore imperative that effective treatment strategies be found to help symptomatic traumatized children in order to minimize these negative effects. PTSD is a term used to explain the consequences of exposure to, or confrontation with stressful events that an individual experiences as being highly traumatic (Aideuis, 2007). The experience must involve an actual or threatened death, a serious physical injury, or a threat to physical and/or psychological integrity. The diagnosis of PTSD fails to adequately describe the effects that the trauma has on a child. It does not recognize the child’s loss of a sense of safety, loss of trust, and decreased self-worth. The child then withdraws and shows a disinterest in social interactions. Nevertheless, a PTSD diagnosis can help victims of trauma gain understanding, acceptance, and appropriate treatment of their symptoms. Many of the treatment modalities which have been developed to treat trauma-related symptoms in children with PTSD have been modified from treatment techniques used with traumatized adults or from techniques which have been useful in treating children who have not been traumatized who may have symptoms similar to those seen in traumatized children (Cohen, Mannarino, Berliner, & Deblinger, 2000). These symptoms may be anxiety or depressive symptoms. Specifically, treatments which have been useful in minimizing PTSD symptoms in adults have been modified for use in treating children who have been traumatized. Out of all the treatments utilized to treat trauma-related symptoms in children, cognitive behavioral techniques have received the most research evaluation. Some children are very resilient when it comes to experiencing traumatic events, while others are not. Research shows that genetic factors influence how children react to these types of events (Caspi, McClay, Moffit, Mill, Martin, Craig, Taylor & Poultin, 2002). There are other factors that can either be risks or protective to the child following experiencing a trauma. These would include the degree of exposure including the threat to the child’s life and threat to loss of life of the child’s family members; the availability of support; any history the child has of a previous trauma; the child’s history of an anxiety disorder; the parent’s history of an anxiety disorder; the parent’s history of PTSD; and the amount of television the child is watching about the trauma the child experienced (Pine & Cohen, 2002). These factors would make the child more vulnerable to emotional and/or behavioral problems following a traumatic event. This paper is going to discuss a treatment that has been successfully used in treating PTSD in children exposed to traumatic events. This treatment is an evidence-based treatment known as trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy or TF-CBT. This type of therapy is used to help these children to build skills to manage their symptoms and to process their trauma along with the support of their parents or caregivers (Feather & Ronan, 2009). TF-CBT was developed for children whose primary presenting problems are directly related to their traumatic experiences. These would be PTSD, depression, anxiety, or behavioral difficulties secondary to the traumatic experience. This treatment is not for...
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