Each person responds to traumatic experiences in different ways depending on many different factors and circumstances. There is a long list of traumatic incidents which a person may have experienced including physical abuse, domestic violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, witnessing a bad accident, and seeing someone killed. Trauma survivors may come to therapy at many different points in the process, some right after an incident and others quite some time after. Additionally, many individuals have experienced more than one traumatic event which is termed complex trauma. In children trauma may be revealed by a child who is noticed to be playing out a traumatic incident or who has had a drastic change in their observed behavior.
There are quite a few symptoms of PTSD that have the potential significantly impact a persons functioning. For some traumatic events are followed by intense and distressing thoughts and hypervigilance. These experiences are usually accompanied by shame and self-blame intensified by thoughts a person may have about why this incident occurred. Another common and unhealthy symptom in avoidance and the best trauma interventions are ones which get to work on this avoidance right away.
Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence based and effective intervention for treating trauma in children and adolescents. The treatment model begins with the PRAC skills which focus on Psychoeducation, Relaxation, Affective Modulation, and Cognitions. Once the child and supportive parent/caregiver have set the foundation by understanding and using the skills treatment progresses to the trauma narrative. This is where the child creates their story about what happened in whatever way is developmentally appropriate and most comfortable for them. This could be a typed story, a picture book, a cartoon strip, or take shape in many other forms. The child will then be supported in using their PRAC skills to work through and process their story. Together the exposure, processing, and skills assist the client in reducing the prevalence and intensity of trauma symptoms.
Treating Trauma in Adults- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is an adaptation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy created to assist individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other traumatic experiences that may not meet full criteria for PTSD. CPT assists the client in becoming more aware of their thoughts and feelings and processing the details of the incident(s). Clients are supported in learning skills to work through the trauma by challenge and changing thoughts and behavior which have been helping to maintain trauma symptoms.