4 Treatment Options for Children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children is real. That’s been the clarion call of this Friendship Circle series over the past few years. So far, the series has explored myths and misconceptions about this mental illness, definitions, causes, risk factors, symptoms in babies and toddlers, as well as symptoms in older children and teens. Pretty heavy stuff. Hard to read. Kind of like peering at the dark side of childhood.
But today’s post shines a light on 4 effective treatments available for children with PTSD. Because effective treatments are available. In fact, according to Ann DiMarco, a trauma therapist and director of child therapy at Intensive Trauma Therapy, Inc., PTSD is the easiest childhood mental illness to treat. The trick is finding the most effective treatment available for the individual child.
PTSD Treatment Option #1:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
According to www.webmd.com, EMDR “does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.”
This treatment method requires a mental health clinician with specialized training For more information about EDMR and how to find trained therapists, visit The EMDR Network, the EMDR Institute, or a mental health counselor in your area.
PTSD Treatment Option #2: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This form of treatment has been around for many years. Clinical social worker Elisa Nebolsine defines CBT as “a problem-focused type of intervention. Rather than an in-depth focus on past experience, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) seeks to teach children to become their own therapist.
CBT helps kids recognize their thought patterns and identify where and when those patterns help and where they hurt. Using problem solving strategies and skill building techniques the child, parent, and therapist work together to change dysfunctional thoughts and replace them with more proactive thoughts and behaviors.”
This treatment is usually administered in weekly sessions of 45 minutes to an hour over several months. Children need higher level thinking skills to participate in this therapy, so it’s usually better for older children. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies has a search page to locate trained therapists around the country.
PTSD Treatment Option #3: Play Therapy
Play therapy is most commonly used with children from ages 3–8. Dr. Tom McIntyre, Professor of Special Education and coordinator of the graduate program in Behavior Disorders at Hunter College of the City University of New York offers this definition of play therapy. “Play therapy is a technique whereby the child’s natural means of expression, namely play, is used as a therapeutic method to assist him/her in coping with emotional stress or trauma.”
Play therapy sessions usually last about 45 minutes a week for several months. Again, any therapist working with your child should be trained in play therapy. The Association for Play Therapy website offers directories for finding trained play therapists all over the Unites States, as well as a YouTube channel with parent-friendly videos. Play Therapy International serves much the same purpose on a global basis.
PSTD Treatment Option #4: Intensive Trauma Therapy (ITT)
Intensive Trauma Therapy, Inc (ITT) is located in Morgantown, West Virginia is an outpatient treatment clinic that works with children and adults living with PTSD. They accept patients as young as age 3 through adolescence. The clinicians use art therapy, play therapy, guided imagery and an externalized dialogue as well as individual psychotherapy to help children process trauma without reliving it. Depending on the magnitude and frequency of trauma experienced by children, as well as their ages, clinicians work with them individually for 1–2 weeks, 3–6 hours per day. To learn more about this program, visit their website.
Before taking your child to a clinic or practitioner, make sure the personnel is licensed and trained. Ask for references and recommendations, just like you would for any health care practitioner. Also, remember is not an exhaustive list of PTSD treatment options available for children. If your child or you have undergone other effective treatment, give the practitioner or clinic a shout out in the comment box.