TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions trauma, assault, violence, and other possibly triggering words and ideas.
Childhood often brings good memories of playing under the sun or sleepovers with friends. However, this is not the case for most people. For some of us, childhood is rife with darker memories that negatively impact our daily lives, hindering us from living life to the full. These bad memories are called developmental trauma or childhood trauma. For today’s blog post, we give you this guide on childhood trauma including the types of childhood trauma therapy and how each will be beneficial for rehabilitation and recovery.
What is Childhood Trauma?
Traumatic experiences are threatening, violent, or frightening events that endanger life. Witnessing a traumatic event can also be a traumatic experience. Trauma initiates physical reactions and strong emotions that can persist long after the event has occurred. These can happen to anyone, including children, and they may bear the effects of these traumas into their adulthood.
Unforeseen dangerous events may happen such as natural disasters, accidents, shootings, or even violence and abuse inside the home which can cause trauma. Although, trauma is subjective, meaning not all traumatic events will have a long-term negative impact on people.
What Is The Difference Between PTSD And Childhood Trauma?
Childhood trauma is often linked to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Although both are trauma-related, both have differences that are important to understand. Childhood trauma, specifically developmental trauma, typically occurs over time within the context of close relationships. PTSD, on the other hand, is often precipitated by events that are usually unexpected or out of one’s control.
Both involve a lack of trust in their surroundings, but PTSD’s main response is hypervigilance or being constantly on the defense. For childhood trauma especially developmental trauma, it was observed that these children or teens may have more blurred boundaries and may lack self-protective instincts. This results in difficulty identifying red flags and trouble with standing up for themselves. Additionally, they may have a more complex response to certain situations like self-blame for what happened to them.
Lastly, some people may not react to stereotypically traumatic events immediately or may have a harder time articulating the trauma they experienced because of normalized stress or trauma in their daily lives. Nonetheless, the impacts of early life trauma often manifest later in adolescence or adulthood.
Signs of Childhood Trauma
What are the signs that you or your loved one should get professional help? According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), here are the symptoms of trauma in children depending on their age:
Traumatic stress looks different for each individual. Typically, when a loved one acts uncharacteristic or not typical for them, they may be experiencing traumatic stress. Always remember that these reactions are normal having survived an overwhelming or difficult life experience. Seeking professional assessment is vital in identifying the issues that need to be addressed.
Why Is Getting Help For Childhood Trauma Important?
It may be easy to dismiss the effects of difficult events happening to children because we often think that they are “too young to understand” or we assume that children will just “forget” these traumatic experiences. This is not the case, as previously mentioned. Trauma experienced in childhood can have a lifelong effect that will require childhood trauma therapy to be properly addressed.
Around 46% of children will experience trauma at some point in their lives, thus early intervention is vital in preventing debilitating and ongoing effects of trauma into adulthood. These long-term effects can include depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, and more. Early intervention can definitely lessen the likelihood of these long-term effects and may lead to a better productive life.
Childhood Trauma And Substance Use
Children exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE have a higher risk of developing mental health problems, including substance use disorder. It is difficult to establish a causal relationship between substance use or dependence between the two, but generally speaking, the onset of trauma precedes the onset of substance dependence. Often, people with trauma-related symptoms use substances like alcohol to help cope with the negative consequences of their trauma.
Childhood Trauma And Co-occurring Disorders
In connection with the previous points, childhood trauma is also linked to co-occurring disorders. Anxiety and depression are common manifestations of trauma and people struggling with these mental illnesses turn to substances to cope with their symptoms. Recent studies stress the importance of conducting trauma assessment among patients with substance use and the use of integrative psychosocial interventions in childhood trauma therapy to address trauma-related symptoms and substance dependence.
Better Overall Health
Research shows that survivors of childhood trauma have increased risks of having long-term health problems like heart disease and diabetes or dying at an earlier age. Childhood trauma is also linked to increased use of health and mental health services, as well as involvement with child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Interventions will help survivors lead better lives, establish fulfilling relationships, and live their lives to the full.
All in all, the benefits of identifying and addressing childhood trauma do not end with the individuals. Early intervention also benefits the larger society: lesser risks of substance use disorders, fewer cases of conflicts with the law, and a better productive community.
What Are The Types of Childhood Trauma Therapies?
Getting the right therapy for childhood trauma might be tricky because it is important NOT to re-traumatize children during their treatments. Generally, there are a lot of therapies that can be integrated to create a rehabilitation plan for recovery. So what therapy is best for childhood trauma? Here are some of the types of therapy for childhood trauma to help you find what fits your loved one.
- Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention. CFTSI is a preventive intervention for children ages 7-18. The main goal of this model is to reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms as well as support the parents or caregivers through better communication. This strategy also teaches healthy coping skills appropriate for their age.
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. Also referred to as PCIT, this evidence-based treatment is modeled for children with behavioral problems. PCIT is conducted through educational sessions during which the therapist observes and provides in-the-moment coaching skills to the caregiver as they interact with the child. This therapy consists of two phases, with the first phase focused on building a warm connection between the caregiver and the child. The second phase is about equipping the caregiver to manage the challenging behaviors of the child while maintaining confidence and calmness.
- Child-Parent Psychotherapy. Child-Parent Psychotherapy or CPP is an intervention model for children ages 0-5 who have experienced at least one trauma and/or experiencing problems with mental health, attachment, and behavior. The primary goal of this treatment is to support and strengthen the caregiver-child bond. It uses this relationship to restore the child’s overall functioning and well-being.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy. Also called CPT, this therapy’s goal is to challenge the unhelpful beliefs of the patient in processing their trauma. CPT helps individuals decrease thoughts that limit or hinder their processing to be able to thrive despite the trauma they experienced. In this therapy, children learn new skills and techniques to reframe their trauma and manage their triggers.
- Narrative Exposure Therapy. Narrative Exposure Therapy or NET is a type of treatment often used in group or community settings to help children with complex grief and trauma. The goal of NET is to reframe and contextualize the trauma to decrease its power over the child’s life. This model requires children to recount certain life events with a focus on positive thoughts about themselves.
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or TF-CBT. TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment approach that helps patients overcome trauma-related challenges, including maltreatment and abuse. This therapy addresses distorted beliefs and provides new skills to children, adolescents, and their parents or caregivers to help them cope with ordinary life stressors. Additionally, it also helps non-abusive caregivers to effectively cope with their emotional distress and build new strategies to support their children.
What Is The Best Therapy Commonly Used For Childhood Trauma?
From the treatments mentioned in the previous section, three of the most well-supported and widely disseminated evidence-based treatments for early childhood trauma are Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, and Child-Parent Psychotherapy. However, like trauma, recovery is subjective. What is most recommended may or may not work for you or your loved one. The best therapy for PTSD from childhood trauma is still the therapy that works for your specific needs. Thus, getting the right assessment is vital in taking back the life you want.
Getting The Best Treatment For Childhood Trauma
It is generally common to experience feelings and thoughts that intensify or add to the faulty beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, even at an early age. These thoughts and feelings often result in problematic or destructive behaviors that negatively affect our relationships, career, school, and overall day-to-day living. The overall goal of childhood trauma therapy is to identify, reshape, and change these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we acquired early in life to be able to live life to the fullest.
If you are looking for the best treatment for childhood trauma, we at Roots Through Recovery are here to help. Why choose Roots? because, we stay away from a cookie-cutter view of creating treatment plans for our patients, and we approach your recovery based on your specific situation, needs, and goals.
Embrace the culture of wellness with us at Roots, located at the heart of Long Beach–a city that offers a diverse community for healing the mind, body, and spirit. Come visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807, or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.