Trauma-focused therapy is a distinct approach to general therapy. It distinguishes and underlines the understanding of how a traumatic experience can impact a child’s mental, behavioral, and physical well-being. Sessions are used for understanding the association between the circumstances and the child’s responses and resulting behavioral changes. The objective of trauma-focused therapy is to train new skills and strategies to assist an adolescent in understanding, coping, and moving on from the trauma. The goal is to empower the client to be a healthier and more focused young adult, with the competence to look into their future with hope and vigor.
What is Trauma-focused Therapy?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), this unique therapeutic approach to overcoming trauma falls under the R.R.R.S. program that defines the steps to guide providers when working with adolescents:
- Realizes the impact of the individual’s trauma and provides healthy boundaries for recovery.
- Recognizes the symptoms and how it is dealt with throughout the adolescent’s home and community.
- Responds by guiding the adolescent to choose more positive environments and seek out more nourishing relationships.
- Seeks to follow up on progress and any new triggers that might be hindering their progress.
What Are the Signs of Trauma Effects on Teenagers?
The effects of trauma can present in a variety of ways. Many adolescents survivors of trauma begin to act out and suffer from behavioral issues such as:
- Explosive outbursts
- Self-harm (i.e., cutting)
- Taking drugs or drinking
- Breaking the law
- Bullying peers or family
- Isolation from others
- Skipping school
- Compulsive lying
Specialized Approaches to Trauma-focused Therapy
While some adults may be receptive to more in-depth treatments, such as Prolonged Exposure (PE), an adolescent may need a softer approach. The following are a few of the different therapeutic styles available for teens:
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) – This approach has the adolescent write down the trauma as opposed to verbally recalling the events. They are asked to include the emotions they felt after each period. Afterward, the therapist has the adolescent read aloud what they wrote. This gives them the visual acceptance of what occurred and the effectiveness to move past the trauma “by turning the page.”
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) – This style of treatment for adolescents involves having them create a picture book of the memory. Each page represents a significant part of the trauma. After a discussion of the meaning of the picture, adolescents are encouraged to ball up the drawing and throw it away. Each event is slowly drawn through and discarded, giving power back to the artist.
- Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) – This style of therapy works with a timeline of life and events. Below each significant moment, adolescents are asked to label that time as happy or sad. Once the graph is complete, therapists work with the adolescent to focus on the positives they have experienced and move on from the negative aspects in a healthier manner.
- Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) – This approach has the adolescent turn the traumatic events into a mental movie. Each “scene” is verbalized and discussed. Once the event is completely discussed, therapists encourage teens to tell the movie one more time but with what they learned from those scenes. This breaks down the mass of the situation into more tolerable moments.
- Progressive Counting (PC) – This style is a variant of the counting method that therapists have used for years to recall mental information under the guise of a set of numbers. With progressive counting, the adolescent recalls bits of the events in short spans, such as five seconds to one minute. This allows the teen to not feel over-exposed to the trauma as one event. Each span of time is verbally discussed and given more positive mental paths to follow.
How Trauma-focused Therapy Can Help Teens Cope Better
Studies have shown that approximately 15% to 43% percent of adolescents go through at least one traumatic event. Of those teens who have had a trauma, 3% to 15% often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression if left untreated.
Adolescents are especially susceptible to behavioral changes and altered moods when experiencing a traumatic event(s). They have matured enough to understand the emotions are making them feel different but lack the experience to deal with it on a rational level.
Without proper intervention, this can lead them to a path that is both unhealthy and dangerous. By applying the techniques of trauma-focused therapy, the adolescent learns that the events do not define them as a person or their future.
Working past these traumas guides the teen to practice self-care and forgiveness. When encountering further unexpected moments, they have the proper mental tools to make levelheaded decisions and healthier choices.
In an all-inclusive therapy setting such as residential treatment, teens learn to balance their past with new positive relationships. By learning to be empathetic and honest about their emotions, they begin learning respect around other boundaries and their own limitations. Utilizing different approaches to healing, the adolescent leaves the feeling clear-headed and positive about their immediate future and beyond.
How Solstice West Can Help Your Teen Today
Solstice West is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for troubled adolescent girls and assigned females at birth that emphasizes the mind-body connection in our unique approach to holistic healthcare.
With a strong emphasis on family therapy-based intervention, nutrition, and physical fitness, and the supportive provision of innovative academics, substance abuse/addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services, Solstice sets the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve.
Contact us today at 801-919-8858 to see how Solstice West can help your family.