What is psychological trauma
Trauma occurs when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his or her emotional and physical well-being. Not all children experience traumatic stress in response to traumatic events. Many children are able to adapt to and overcome difficult situations, depending on factors such as age, developmental maturity, prior experiences, social support and other resiliency assets (“Understanding Child Traumatic Stress” brochure from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network).
What can cause child traumatic stress
Trauma can be the result of exposure to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood or to events such as war and terrorism. Witnessing or being the victim of violence, serious injury, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect can be traumatic. Accidents or medical procedures can result in trauma, too. Sadly, about one of every four children will experience a traumatic event before the age of 16.
What are the effects of trauma in children?
It is recognized that trauma has a particularly unique and significant impact on children. Children are not “little adults”; they are more vulnerable to the traumatic effects on development. Child maltreatment and trauma, especially chronic trauma, affects every aspect of a child’s development and functioning including cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social, physical and moral development (View the Kathleen Moroz Report, 2005). “Trauma affects basic regulatory processes in the brain stem, the limbic brain (emotion, memory, regulation of arousal and affect), the neocortex (perception of self and the world) as well as integrative functioning across various systems in the central nervous system. Traumatic experiences are stored in the child’s body/mind, and fear, arousal and dissociation associated with the original trauma may continue after the threat of danger and arousal has subsided” (Moroz, 2005). This can have long-lasting impacts in the individual’s life.
As seen in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (Felitti, Anda, Nordenberg, et al., 1998) multiple adverse childhood experiences such as “abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with alcohol or other substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home” have a “strong, graded relationship to numerous health, social, and behavioral problems throughout a person's lifespan”. The negative impacts of trauma are seen in adverse child and adult outcomes including reduced school readiness and performance; increased rates of substance abuse; serious health problems; social, emotional, behavioral and mental health problems; and decreased occupational attainment.
Early recognition, intervention and support for children, adolescents and adults who have experienced trauma is imperative to reduce the impact of trauma, build resiliency and increase their functioning in the short and long term. DMH is committed to the provision of trauma-informed care for all mental health consumers and trauma-specific treatment services for those identified as needing more intensive treatment.
What does it mean to be Trauma-informed?
Trauma-informed services are designed to deliver mental health (and other social services such as addictions, housing supports, vocational or employment counseling services) in a manner that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that violence and victimization play in the lives of most consumers of mental health and other social services. This understanding drives the design of service systems to accommodate the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors, promote resiliency and recovery, and reduce and eliminate practices that have the potential to be traumatizing or re-traumatizing. Trauma informed services are provided in a way that will facilitate child, youth, and family participation that is appropriate and helpful to the special needs of trauma survivors.
Trauma-informed mental health treatment incorporates... (Jennings, 2004):
- An appreciation for the high prevalence of traumatic experiences in persons who receive mental health services;
- A thorough understanding of the profound neurological, biological, psychological and social effects of trauma and violence on the individual; and
- Care that addresses these effects, is collaborative, supportive and skill-based.
Child Trauma Services in Vermont
The Department of Mental Health adheres to the Agency of Human Services (AHS) Trauma Policy and has developed a draft DMH Trauma Policy to ensure that the mental health treatment system is trauma-informed and offers quality trauma-specific treatment.
The Department of Mental Health is a member of the AHS Child Trauma Workgroup, which was formed in 2004 as a subcommittee of the AHS Trauma Cluster. These groups were formed in response to the recognition that many people obtaining AHS services have multiple or complex experiences of trauma in their history and that this has significant implications on how to provide services that are supportive and effective
The DMH Child, Adolescent and Family Unit, through collaborative planning with the Child Trauma Workgroup, was awarded a three-year grant (FY 2010-20012) for $400,000 per year to become a Community Treatment and Services Center of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to improve trauma informed care across the community mental health system as well as the larger system of care. This award is supporting the implementation of the promising practice “Attachment, Self Regulation & Competency (ARC): A Framework for Intervention with Complexly Traumatized Youth” into the Vermont Children’s Mental Health system of care. For more information, please visit the Vermont Child Trauma Collaborative page.
- What Parents Need To Know About Child Sexual Abuse – a pamphlet from DCF Family Services
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
- The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute
- Sidran Institute: Traumatic Stress Education & Advocacy
- Child Trauma Academy (Dr. Bruce Perry)
- Child Trauma Institute (Dr. Ricky Greenwald)
- David Baldwin’s Trauma Information Pages
- The Anna Institute
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study
- Witness Justice
- National Center for Children in Poverty
- Children and Domestic Violence
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health
- Heal the Hurt: Helping torture survivors heal
- Safer Society Foundation - A national, non-profit agency that provides services related to the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse.
PO Box 340 Brandon, VT 05733-0340
- Vermont Agency of Human Services Trauma policy
- The Anna Institute
- SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care
- “Creating Trauma-Informed Child-Serving Systems” (NCTSN)
- “Using Trauma Theory to Design Service Systems." Fallot, R. and Harris, M. (2001).
- National Trauma Consortium
- Vermont AHS White Paper on "The Effects of Psychological Trauma on Children and Adolescents"
- Report on "Understanding the Current Mental Health Needs of Children Experiencing Domestic Violence in Vermont: Recommendations for Enhancing and Improving Responses" from The Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assualt, DCF Family Services, and the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services
- "Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents"
- “Intertwining Nature of Attachment and Trauma”
- “Complex Child Trauma”
- “Claiming Children: Special Issue: Trauma” (2003) Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
- “Understanding Child Traumatic Stress” brochure (NCTSN)
- “What Happened to My World? Helping children cope with natural disaster and catastrophe” (2005) Greenman, Jim.
- “Helping Traumatized Children Learn” (2005)
- “It’s My Time to Live – journeys to healing and recovery.” Heckman, J. and Veysey, B., with Markoff, L., Mazelis, R., Russell, L., (2006), SAMHSA, CMHS.
“Behind Closed Doors” Laura Cain, J.D., Managing Attorney of the Adult Mental Health Unit at the Maryland Disability Law Center. To request a free copy of the film, please contact the law center by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 410-727-6352, ext. 0.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Archived audio and power point slides from web-cast trainings can be found in the Training & Education section.
- The Trauma Center at JRI has work by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Margaret Blaustein, etc. They also offer certificate training programs.
- The Child Trauma Academy website has articles and handouts including work by Dr. Bruce Perry on the neurobiological impact of trauma on children.
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) offers web-based training for clinicians. This website also has resources for therapists, parents, and children which are helpful even if not participating in the web-training program.
- Technical Assistance teleconferences can be joined live, or download past topics through the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health. Sponsored by the Georgetown University Center for Child & Human Development, National Technical Assistance Conference Call, FREE, 1:00 to 2:30 pm.
- Free on-line video training on a trauma assessment tool for children available through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network: “Administration and Scoring of the UCLA PTSD Reaction Index for DSM-IV (Revision 1)” with Alan M. Steinberg, Ph.D., William R. Saltzman, Ph.D. and Melissa Brymer, Psy. D. (Video: 1 hour 24 minutes).
- University Of Connecticut sponsors The Master Therapist Series.