Coping with Violence and Disasters
Strategies for Helping Children and Adolescents
Treatment of PTSD
People with PTSD are treated with specialized forms of psychotherapy and sometimes with medications or a combination of the two.
One of the forms of psychotherapy shown to be effective is
cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. In CBT, the patient is taught methods of overcoming anxiety or depression and modifying undesirable behaviors such as avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event. The therapist helps the patient examine and re-evaluate beliefs that are interfering with healing, such as the belief that the traumatic event will happen again. Children who undergo CBT are taught to avoid "catastrophizing." For example, they are reassured that dark clouds do not necessarily mean another hurricane, that the fact that someone is angry doesn't necessarily mean that another shooting is imminent, etc.
Play therapy and art therapy also can help younger children to remember the traumatic event safely and express their feelings about it.
Other forms of psychotherapy that have been found to help persons with PTSD include
group and exposure therapy. A reasonable period of time for treatment of PTSD is 6 to 12 weeks with occasional follow-up sessions, but treatment may be longer depending on a patient's particular circumstances. Research has shown that support from family and friends can be an important part of recovery.
There has been a good deal of research on the use of medications for adults with PTSD, including research on the formation of emotionally charged memories and medications that may help block the development of
symptoms.20-22 Medications appear to be useful in reducing overwhelming symptoms of arousal (such as sleep disturbances and an exaggerated startle reflex), intrusive thoughts, and avoidance; reducing accompanying conditions such as depression and panic; and improving impulse control and related behavioral problems. Research is just beginning on the use of medications to treat PTSD in children and adolescents.
There is accumulating empirical evidence that trauma/grief-focused psychotherapy and selected pharmacologic interventions can be effective in alleviating PTSD symptoms and in addressing co-occurring
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Research on Trauma in Children and Adolescents
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