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A Special Short-Term Therapy Helps Traumatized Kids

We all want our kids to have perfect childhoods, untouched by pain or fear. That doesn’t always happen, though. Every year, millions of kids experience trauma when they are the victims of or witnesses to violent or abusive acts.

Childhood trauma can leave marks that last a lifetime. How many of us are still working out our issues in therapy decades after an early emotional wound? Far too many. For those suffering from PTSD, there are major long-term risks. Kids with PTSD are more likely then their peers to be arrested, to use drugs, to fail at school, and to hurt themselves or others.

Traditional therapy for PTSD can take years and be of limited effectiveness. Now, a new therapy system coming out of Yale is reporting amazing results for healing traumatized kids with just a few visits to a therapist’s office.

The therapy, which the NYT Well blog reports on, involves just a few targeted sessions with the child, the child’s parent or caregiver, and the two together. It’s been used to treat victims of sexual and domestic abuse as well as other kinds of trauma. As the Well blog says:

The children completing the intervention were 65 percent less likely than those in the comparison group to have developed full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder and 73 percent less likely to experience partial or full post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers said….

[Dr. Marans] added: “This intervention inspires hope and confidence. It can make an immediate and palpable difference in the daily lives of children who have suffered even the worst forms of abuse.”

The therapy helps adults too. The cargivers of traumatized children nearly universally said they had learned new skills for helping their child.

What makes this therapy so unique, and so effective? It follows a very strict pattern, working with both caregivers and children in a formula based on years of research into what works. They move quickly to foster healing and support, as well as teaching new skills to the adults involved. If necessary, the family can be referred for additional therapy.

This is so exciting it feels almost too good to be true. I’ve lived with PTSD for nearly 15 years now. I’ve thought I conquered it only to have it surface again a decade later. I’ve had nightmares and relationship issues and many persistent symptoms of trauma. The idea that a lot of vulnerable children could be spared suffering through the long-term affects of trauma warms my heart.

Trauma is so big and complicated in the way it effects us, is it really possible that a quick, comparatively simple therapy could make such a big impact? One hopes so. The data is piling up to indicate yes, and centers around the country are starting to train therapists to help kids with this new technique.

Photo: iStock

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