If your child or teen has had a traumatic experience – whether it be a car accident, sexual abuse, a scary medical procedure, or something else – you may be wondering if and how your child will ever be the same. Maybe your child is having nightmares, has become unusually clingy, or seems distant and angry. Perhaps, as a parent, you are struggling with a mix of emotions yourself.
We have therapists who specialize in helping children and families heal from trauma, including therapists trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is a therapy program especially designed to help children and teens heal from sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences.
In TF-CBT, children learn skills for expressing and managing their thoughts and feelings, and have the opportunity to process what happened in a healthy, productive way. Parents and caregivers learn how to support their child’s healing and overcome their own feelings about the abuse or trauma. While a traumatic experience can leave a lasting impact, it doesn’t have to define your child’s future or yours. Things can get better.
Below you’ll find more information and videos about trauma, its effects on children, and how TF-CBT works.
What is a trauma?
A trauma is any very scary or even life-threatening situation that a child might experience. There are many different types of traumas, but what they all have in common is that they disrupt a child’s sense of safety. Our therapists often work with children who have been sexually or physically abused, witnessed violence in the home or community, watched loved ones overdose from drugs, or experienced a serious accident. Many kids have seen something scary happen to a parent or loved one.
What are some signs my child might need help?
Some children “bounce back” quickly after a trauma. However, many children develop post-traumatic symptoms. Some examples include:
- nightmares or trouble sleeping
- strong reactions to reminders of the trauma
- trouble concentrating
- being jumpy or startling easily
- avoiding any reminders of what happened
- frequent stomachaches or headaches
- becoming moody and irritable
- withdrawing or losing interest in things
- behavior problems
- trouble getting along with others
- re-enacting what happened with toys, or bringing it up over and over again
- becoming very clingy or afraid to be alone
- “freezing up,” or seeming unresponsive or “spaced out”
When this happens, children need help to cope with what has happened and begin to heal.
How does TF-CBT work?
The video below, created by Dr. Liz and the Penn State EPISCenter, explains what to expect.