Teen Trauma Treatment: Our recommendation for the best therapies

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Helen Kaminski, MSc

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Teen Trauma Treatment

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Welcome to this article on helping your teen deal with trauma; we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on finding teen trauma treatment online at affordable prices, no matter where you live.

According to psychologist Anthony Mannarino, Ph.D., more than two-thirds of American children will experience a potentially traumatic life event by age 16.

That number might sound high. But “when you think about violence, abuse, traffic accidents, bullying, deaths in the family — you can get up to two-thirds pretty quickly,” he says.

As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to see your child struggle with the aftermath of a traumatic event and not fully knowing what treatment options are available and where to turn. 

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”

— LAURELL K. HAMILTON

Trauma treatment for teens: What is the best option?

A teen standing and experiencing trauma

When an adolescent has a traumatic experience, it can affect them emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Trauma symptoms can range from mild to severe and include flashbacks, anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.

Trauma is a psychological response to an event that is perceived as a threat to one’s safety or well-being. Trauma can be caused by a variety of events, including natural disasters, accidents, and violence.

The term “complex trauma” refers to the diagnostic implications and associated symptomologies that arise in adolescents aged 13 to 17 years who have experienced multiple traumatic events, creating an enormous need for teen trauma treatment.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2007) definition, complex trauma encompasses both the exposure of children to multiple traumatic events, usually of invasive and interpersonal nature, and the extensive, long-term impact of such exposure.

Another term used in this context is “developmental trauma,” which encompasses repeated exposure of children and adolescents to potentially traumatic events, often perpetrated by a trusted person or adult in their lives, as described by Van der Kolk (2005).

The frequency and intensity of adolescents’ exposure to potentially traumatic events, which can trigger a range of reactions among survivors (Ogle, Rubin, Berntsen, & Siegler, 2013), has been increasing over the past several years, with rates of poly victimization steadily rising (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, & Hamby, 2009).

Current research suggests that adolescents who have been exposed to multiple traumatic events often experience more severe mental and physical difficulties compared to those who have experienced single-incident traumas (Finkelhor, Ormrod, & Turner, 2007).

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How to find a teen trauma treatment program?

Teen counselors understand that for parents and families experiencing teen trauma, it is an extremely difficult experience.

With the close guidance and support of your counselor, your child will gain clarity, strength, and confidence to identify and overcome trauma.

Teen counselors will equip you and your child with the skills to start the healing process.

PTSD treatment for teenager

Seeking professional treatment help from a therapist can be crucial in helping your teen deal with trauma from a traumatic event. A therapist can provide a supportive environment for teens to process their feelings and develop coping strategies.

An evidence-based course, usually 12 to 18 sessions, of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), developed by a team of psychologists in the 1980s, has been shown to reduce PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms in children and families.

When choosing a therapist, finding one with experience working with trauma and adolescents is essential. Look for someone licensed and trained in trauma-focused therapy, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

During therapy sessions, your teen can discuss their thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event. The therapist will help them identify and challenge negative thoughts, develop coping strategies, and learn relaxation techniques to manage anxiety and stress.

The therapist may also work with your teen to develop a plan and provide guidance on managing triggers that may cause distress.

It is important to note that a trauma treatment program for teens is a process, and healing from a traumatic event takes time. Your teen may need several sessions with a therapist or psychologist to feel significant improvement. Encourage your teen to be patient and persistent, and let them know that seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If your teen hesitates to attend therapy or feels uncomfortable with their therapist, it is vital to address their concerns and explore other options. Consider finding a therapist who works with teens, offers teletherapy sessions, or uses a different type of therapy that may better suit your teen’s needs.

In addition to therapy, other resources are available to support your teen, such as support groups, school counselors, and crisis hotlines. Encourage your teen to reach out for help and let them know they are not alone in their healing journey.

Impact of trauma on mental health

Findings in a recent study demonstrate that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with increased hospitalizations with mental health diagnoses among adolescents.

These findings support the need for greater resources to care for adolescents with mental health conditions during the pandemic and beyond.

It is a heartbreaking and distressing incident that can profoundly affect teenagers. For adolescents who have gone through the harrowing experience of such an event, the trauma can be exceptionally intense.

Graph showing prevalence of adolescent trauma

It may seem permanent with no hope of relief, but when a parent is well-equipped with strategies to help them heal, the effects of trauma can be mitigated and, in many cases, reversed. Being proactive and beginning the healing process as quickly as possible is crucial.

The aftermath of such an incident can leave lasting emotional scars, with teens feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, fear, and uncertainty about their safety. This certainly creates the case for the urgent need for teen trauma treatment.

Common symptoms may include sleep disturbances, nightmares, and difficulties focusing at school. Additionally, some teens may grapple with guilt or survivor’s guilt, grappling with why they were spared while others were not.

Recognizing that traumatic stress in teenagers is a valid psychological response to a traumatic event and may require professional intervention is essential.

Early identification and intervention, such as trauma-focused therapy for teens, can help mitigate the long-term impact of traumatic stress and support the teenager’s recovery process. One such event could be a sudden loss of a loved one.

According to the following chart from an evidence-based study, sudden loss is the highest lifetime prevalence of adolescent trauma.


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Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with an experienced teen therapist online in as little as 48 hours.

✓ Over 14,000 licensed therapists

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

✓ Plans as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ 20% off through Therapy Helpers

PTSD in teens: emotional and behavioral signs of trauma

It is essential to recognize the signs of trauma in your teen so that you can provide the appropriate support. Some common symptoms of trauma in teens include:

Difficulty sleeping: Teens may struggle with sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing nightmares after a traumatic event.

Nightmares or flashbacks: Traumatic memories may manifest as nightmares or flashbacks, causing distress and heightened anxiety.

Anxiety or fearfulness: Teens may develop increased anxiety or fearfulness, constantly worrying about safety and becoming hypervigilant.

Teen Trauma
“As every therapist will tell you, healing involves discomfort. But so does refusing to heal. And over time, refusing to heal is more painful.”- Resmaa Menakem

Depression or sadness: Traumatic events can trigger feelings of depression or sadness, leading to a sense of hopelessness or withdrawal from activities.

Anger or irritability: Teens may exhibit heightened anger or irritability, struggling with emotional regulation and expressing emotions through frustration or agitation.

Difficulty concentrating: Trauma can impact teens’ ability to concentrate and focus on tasks, including schoolwork.

Physical symptoms: Trauma may manifest in symptoms like headaches or stomach aches due to stress and anxiety.

Changes in behavior or mood: Teens may exhibit changes in behavior or mood, such as withdrawal, risk-taking behaviors, mood swings, or emotional outbursts.

If your teen is exhibiting any of these signs, it is essential to talk to them and seek professional help.

According to research, 1 in 30 adolescents experienced homelessness between 2016 and 2017 in the US. Homelessness among adolescents occurs in the context of overwhelming stress, trauma, and deprivation, all of which are associated with worse mental health and substance use outcomes.

Additionally, teens who have experienced trauma may be susceptible to PTSD, which the parents are unaware of and may need help detecting.

Sponsored, keeps our community free. Therapy Helpers does not accept money for reviews.

official corporate logo of teen counseling
Star Rating 4.5 Of 5

Excellent

Try TeenCounseling Therapy

Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with an experienced teen therapist online in as little as 48 hours.

✓ Over 14,000 licensed therapists

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

✓ Plans as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ 20% off through Therapy Helpers

Barriers to treatment

Unfortunately, not all teens have equal access to the support and treatment they need to recover. Potential barriers can make it challenging for some teens to access trauma treatment, including cost, stigma, and lack of available resources in certain areas.

Cost is a significant barrier to trauma treatment for many teenagers and their families. Some forms of trauma treatment, such as psychotherapy and medication, can be expensive and not covered by insurance.

This can create an additional financial burden that prevents some families from seeking treatment for their teens.

Stigma is another challenge that can prevent teens from accessing trauma treatment. Unfortunately, mental health stigma is still prevalent in many communities. Some teens may feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help for their trauma. This can be even more definite for teens from cultures or communities where mental health is stigmatized.

Finally, the lack of available resources in certain areas can make it difficult for some teens to access trauma treatment. This can be due to a shortage of mental health providers in certain regions, a lack of transportation or mobility, or limited access to health insurance. In this instance, online counseling is the best option.

Tips for parents: can PTSD go away?

Taking the necessary steps toward healing is important because nothing happens until we put thought and effort into it. There are several things you can do to help your teen cope and heal after a traumatic event:

Validate their feelings: Let your teen know their feelings are valid and normal. Listen to them without judgment and offer support and comfort.

Create a comfortable environment: Ensure your teen feels safe and secure at home. Encourage them to discuss their fears and concerns and reassure them that you are there for them.

Limit exposure to media: The constant barrage of media coverage can be overwhelming and traumatic for teens. Limit their exposure to media coverage and encourage them to take breaks from social media.

Seek professional help: If your teen struggles with trauma symptoms, it is crucial to seek professional help. A therapist can help your teen process their feelings and develop coping strategies.

Encourage self-care: Encourage your teen to practice self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with friends and family.

Ongoing research is being conducted in this field on whether PTSD can go away. For example, there have been 16 randomized controlled trials demonstrating the efficacy of therapy with various children populations.

“If we continue to carry bricks from your past, we will end up building the same house.”

— UNKNOWN


Prepare and educate kids about traumatic events

Traumatic events are a complex and sensitive topic to discuss with children. However, having this conversation with them is vital to prepare them for a worst-case scenario and alleviate their fears. 

Here are some tips on how to teach kids about trauma experiences:

Start with a conversation: Ask your child if they have heard about traumatic events or know what it means. This will give you an idea of how much they know and what they are curious about.

Be honest and age-appropriate: Be honest with your child about what can happen during a traumatic event, but keep their age and maturity level in mind. Use language that is appropriate for their understanding, and avoid graphic details.

Empower them: Teach your child to observe their surroundings and report suspicious activity to a trusted adult. Encourage them to speak up if they see or hear something wrong.

Practice safety drills: Make sure your child knows what to do during a lockdown or evacuation, and practice these drills at home to ensure they are prepared.

Encourage empathy: It is essential to teach children to be empathetic and compassionate towards others. Talk to them about the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness, regardless of their differences.

Seek help if needed: If your child is worried and struggling with anxiety or trauma-related fear, seek professional help. A mental health professional can help them work through their feelings and develop coping strategies.

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful.”

— UNKNOWN

Verdict: Importance of treatment for PTSD in teens

Family involvement is a critical component of trauma treatment for teenagers. The support and involvement of family members can help teens feel validated, heard, and understood.

It can also provide practical support, such as transportation to therapy appointments and assistance with medication management. Involving family members in treatment can also help improve communication and strengthen relationships between family members. This can be especially crucial for teens who have experienced trauma within their family or community.

Family therapy is a common approach to trauma treatment for teens that involves working with the teen and their family members to develop coping strategies and improve communication. This approach can effectively address trauma’s impact on the family system and help teens feel more supported and connected to their loved ones.

In conclusion, helping adolescents deal with trauma from a traumatic event can be a challenging but highest-priority task. It is vital to recognize the signs of trauma, provide a judgment-free environment, limit exposure to media, seek professional help if needed, and encourage frequent self-compassion and self-care activities.

With time and patience, your teen can heal and recover from the trauma they have experienced.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there is always help with many treatment options available if needed catering to teens suffering from trauma.


References

  1. Helping children recover from trauma https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/12/helping-children
  2. Treating Complex Trauma in Adolescents: A Phase-Based, Integrative Approach for Play Therapists https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/pla-a0036679.pdf
  3. Hospitalizations Associated With Mental Health Conditions Among Adolescents in the US and France https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2799437?resultClick=1
  4. Mental Health and Substance Use Among Homeless Adolescents in the US https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2791941?resultClick=1
  5. Links between bereavement due to Sudden death and academic functioning: Results from a nationally representative sample of adolescents https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-percentage-of-youth-who-have-experienced-each-type-of-trauma-in-their-life-time_fig1_323164597
  6. In search of cultural competence. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/03/cultural-competence
  7. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma14-4884.pdf
Trauma in Children: What You Can Do to Help | Uchenna Umeh | TEDxAlief

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About the author

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Mindful living for a happier, healthier you. I’m a writer and mental health advocate in Warsaw, Poland, with five years working as a therapist. I hold a psychology degree from the University of Warsaw. I specialize in writing about mental health, using my experiences and academic background to educate and inspire others. In my free time, I volunteer at a Disability Learning Center and go for nature walks. My writing aims to break down mental health stigma and help others feel understood. Social

1 thought on “Teen Trauma Treatment: Our recommendation for the best therapies”

  1. It’s good that you mentioned that seeking professional treatment from a therapist is crucial for teens dealing with trauma from a traumatic event since this will give them a supportive environment where they can process their feelings properly and develop healthy coping strategies. My nephew was severely bullied during his first year of middle school and developed trauma from this event in his life so I want to help him recover from this soon.

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