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High Quality Trauma Treatment for Children and Adolescents

Here at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic we offer a comprehensive trauma assessment and treatment process for children and teens from birth to seventeen years old.  We actively work to improve our skills and techniques to expand our knowledge and expertise in this arena.  One important treatment method that we use here at the clinic is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).  TF-CBT is designed for children and adolescents that have been exposed to an event that has threatened the child’s physical and emotional integrity and has overwhelmed the child’s ability to cope.  This could have resulted from exposure to domestic violence, sexual abuse, neglect, natural disasters, generational trauma, or any event that was frightening and resulted in the child’s wellness and sense of safety being compromised. 

Children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events may develop symptoms such as excessive worry, sadness, irritability and/or difficulty managing daily experiences.  Caregivers may notice defiance, aggression, and the child using unhelpful negative assumptions toward themselves or others in their world.  The child may have periods of repeated dysregulation. 

TF-CBT was specifically designed to address the needs of children with these symptoms and to support the caregivers in becoming active allies in the healing process.   TF-CBT moves through specific objectives in a structured manner.  One of the beginning objectives is the clinician instructing the child and caregiver in common reactions to trauma, myths about trauma, and what it means to have trauma reminders.  The caregiver is supported to enhance and develop effective parenting skills.  This guidance is an important component of treatment. 

The child, caregivers, and clinician work together to build skills in relaxation and feelings identification.  The clinician uses a variety of interactive, creative and age appropriate interventions to enhance understanding and encourages the child and caregiver to actively practice the newly learned skills between therapy sessions.   

In TF-CBT the child or adolescent, through the support of the clinician, begins to understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions.  The child is guided to recognize their thoughts and then learn the difference between helpful and helpful thoughts.  The caregiver also develops an increased understanding of thought processes.  This ensures that the caregiver can help the child with the generation of alternative thoughts that will be more helpful, and at times, more accurate in situations that may arise. 

Throughout the treatment process the traumatic event is gradually explored with the child.  When the child has begun to demonstrate use of skills, the clinician and child begin to develop what is called the trauma narrative.   Together the child and clinician write a story about the traumatic event.  This is done in a manner that meets the needs of the specific child; a story book, a poem, a song, audio recording or other mode. The trauma narrative is reviewed and developed over several sessions.  The process may include adding thoughts and feelings, details, and finding the worst parts within the narrative.   Directly talking about the trauma is an important healing component.  The specific thoughts identified within the story are explored in greater detail with the client and clinician checking in for accuracy.  After several sessions the story changes and culminates with a narrative that has the facts of what occurred and thoughts of self-blame removed.  The clinician works with the caregiver to prepare the caregiver to hear the narrative.  The child then shares the completed narrative with the caregiver. 

The final phase of TF-CBT is around increasing the child’s personal safety skills.  This future planning process helps the child learn how to recognize their internal cues and messages and also learn important safety skills.   Again, caregivers are actively engaged throughout the treatment process as well as these final phases of treatment that lead up to discharge from treatment.  Discharge is a positive and hope filled celebration of the wonderful treatment gains made.      

The ability to offer such a superb treatment for children and adolescents in this community is very important to staff at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic. 

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