Study Evaluates Kids' Therapies: Most Trauma Treatments Lack Scientific Support
Bower, Bruce, Science News
There's good news and, not surprisingly, bad news for children and teenagers grappling with the psychological aftermath of trauma. On the up side, research shows that cognitive-behavioral therapy eases post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related problems in the young. On the down side, most mental-health practitioners use other therapies for kids and teens that lack scientific support.
These conclusions come from a research review conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, a group of 12 investigators partly funded by the federal government. Its findings appear in the September American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Although the review focuses on Western countries, research has also just started to explore the use of trained nonprofessionals to treat traumatized children in developing nations, where mental-health workers are scarce.
Kids with trauma-related psychological problems tend to do poorly in school if they are untreated or inadequately treated, remarks psychologist and social worker Marleen Wong of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
An estimated one in eight children have experienced physical or sexual abuse, neglect, bullying and other types of maltreatment. More than one in three have witnessed violence or experienced it indirectly, such as losing a parent to murder. Children experiencing trauma can develop PTSD or other disorders.
Evidence indicates that individual and group cognitive-behavioral therapy reduces symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and related behavior problems in traumatized children and adolescents, the task force reports. Cognitive-behavioral techniques include discussing or writing about traumatic experiences, learning relaxation techniques and replacing paralyzing fears with more realistic assessments. …