PTSD in children treatable with a few hours of therapy

A new study brings good news for young people who have suffered a traumatic experience: Children and adolescents with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can be successfully treated with just a few hours of therapy.

Researchers timed the therapy with a stop watch. They found that 2 hours and 20 minutes of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or 3 hours and 47 minutes of Cognitive Behavioral Writing Therapy were enough to reduce posttraumatic stress reactions, anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems for children between 8 and 18 years old.

And the results were lasting: A year later the children were still doing well.

While previous research has shown similar results for adults with PTSD, this is the first time these therapies have been demonstrated to be effective for children.

PTSD is relatively easy to treat, but it’s important to start as soon after the traumatic event as possible. Though only about 16 percent or less of children who have experienced a traumatic event develop the disorder, they should all be carefully screened for it.

Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Emotional numbing.
  • Avoidance of memories or situations that trigger memories of the event.
  • Flashbacks of the event.
  • Intrusive memories of the event.
  • Nightmares and night terrors.
  • Fears about death.
  • Worry.
  • Sadness.

Read more about childhood and adolescent PTSD here.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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