Helping children overcome trauma

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Barican, J., Garland, O., Gray-Grant, D., & Nightingale, L. (2011). Helping children overcome trauma. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 5(3), 1–16. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: After being exposed to trauma, some children will develop emotional and behavioural symptoms. Consequently, we set out to identify which interventions can support children to recovery from these experiences and their sequalae.       

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify interventions aimed at addressing childhood trauma. Applying our inclusion criteria, we accepted one systematic review that reviewed 21 randomized controlled trials (RCTs). 

Results: Among the 21 RCTs, 12 evaluated cognitive-behavioural interventions (CBT). Ten CBT interventions resulted in statistically significant improvements for children, including reduced depressive, behavioural and posttraumatic stress symptoms. As well, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing also reduced posttraumatic stress symptoms according to two RCTs. Overall, however, CBT produced a larger effect size than all other interventions.  

Conclusions: CBT is the most effective psychotherapy for traumatized children. By providing CBT to children in need, recovery from trauma is both possible and probable. 

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