Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents
The content on this site is made available for education and informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as medical advice or to replace consultation with your physician or mental health professional. If you have questions or concerns, you are advised to consult a mental health provider.
Allegheny General Hospital's Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents serves children and families who experience traumatic or stressful events in their lives. The center provides prompt evaluation and treatment of children impacted by trauma, including child abuse or neglect, domestic or community violence, death of a family member, disasters or multiple/complex traumas. The center generally provides a time-limited treatment approach focused on alleviating significant mental health problems and promoting healthy coping responses in traumatized children and their families.
The Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents is the only one of its kind in the region and has been identified as a "Model Program" by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The center also belongs to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), where it is responsible for developing and disseminating effective interventions for traumatized children. The center is considered a national leader in developing and researching evidence-based, trauma-focused treatments for children and adolescents.
Information for Parents
Childhood Trauma Responses
If your child has experienced a trauma, you are not alone. Most children have a traumatic experience during childhood. This may include child abuse, domestic violence, the death of an important person, community violence, a serious accident, a disaster or fire, school bullying, terrorism or refugee experiences, or multiple or complex traumas.
Children have many different responses to traumatic experiences. These may include:
- Re-experiencing the trauma: having scary thoughts or bad dreams after traumatic experiences or re-experiencing the trauma through play or behavior, for example, in aggressive or sexualized behavior.
- Avoidance: refusing to talk about the traumatic experiences or people, places or things that remind them of the trauma.
- Hyperarousal: poor sleep, increased anger or irritability, poor concentration, jumpiness or an increase in risk-taking behavior
- Mood changes: sadness, anger, fear, anxiety related to the trauma
- Trauma-related thoughts: self-blame, worthlessness, guilt, feeling generally unsafe after the trauma
- Behavior or relationship problems: difficulty in school, general decline in self-care, not getting along with siblings, parent, peers or other significant changes in functioning after trauma
Each child is unique. If your child is having any difficulties after having experienced trauma, these may be trauma-related. We are here to help you determine the best approach for your child and families.
What to expect from services at the Center for Traumatic Stress
When you call the Center you will speak to an intake coordinator who will obtain detailed information about your child’s traumatic experiences and the problems your child is currently experiencing. Based on this information the coordinator will promptly schedule an appointment for your child and you or refer you to another provider who is best suited to your child’s needs. In some instances your child may need another evaluation prior to coming to the Center for an evaluation. If this occurs, the intake coordinator will explain why this is needed.
Initial evaluations typically take one hour. During this evaluation the therapist will spend time meeting individually with you and your child. You and your child will be asked to complete one or more paper and pencil instruments to help the therapist to better understand how trauma is affecting your child. At the end of the evaluation, the therapist will meet with you and your child to discuss next steps. Based on this meeting, you, your child and the therapist will make a treatment plan that will determine your child’s treatment at the Center.
Treatment at the Center almost always includes parents/caretakers as well as the child. Depending on your child’s individual needs, treatment typically occurs once a week and lasts 12 -24 weeks.
Treatment at the Center for Traumatic Stress depends on you trusting your therapist to help your child and your family to recover after trauma. If you have any questions or are unsure about anything that is occurring during the evaluation or treatment process, please ask your therapist.
Information for Military Families
In addition to the traumas described above, military children experience traumas unique to deployment during wartime. These include the serious injury or death of a military family member including invisible wounds such as PTSD, depression and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Any of these experiences can lead to traumatic stress responses in military children.
The center is particularly committed to serving military families, including the unique needs of National Guard and Reserve families. We are Tricare providers and our treatment model, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been modified to address the unique needs of military children with traumatic stress or traumatic grief responses and their families. Through funding from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network we have worked with the National Military Families Association (www.nmfa.org) the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (www.taps.org) and other military affiliated groups to develop educations materials for military families. This information is available on the NCTSN website, www.nctsn.org.
If you are a military parent interested in seeking services at the Center, please call our intake coordinator at 412-330-4328.
Sesame Street Workshop Materials
Judith Cohen, M.D. has consulted with Sesame Workshop on television specials, most notably "Talk, Listen, Connect TV" which addresses the difficult topic of children experiencing the death of a parent or loved one. The Sesame Street site contains bereavement resources that provide support to military and non-military families. More Information
Information for Healthcare Professionals
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) was developed and tested by Anthony Mannarino, Ph.D. and Judith Cohen, M.D. at Allegheny General Hospital, with Esther Deblinger, Ph.D. of the CARES Institute, UMDNJ-SOM. TF-CBT is a evidence-based treatment for pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions in traumatized children. TF-CBT is the most extensively tested treatment for traumatized children, with 13 completed randomized controlled treatment trials for children ages 3-17 years old who have experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, commercial sexual exploitation, and multiple traumas. The CDC, WHO, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the International Society on Traumatic Stress Studies and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration endorse TF-CBT as an effective treatment for child trauma.
Free web-based training in TF-CBT at TF-CBTWeb provides 10 free CE credits, streaming video demonstrations, printable scripts, and is the first step in obtaining therapist certification. More than 130,000 mental health professionals have registered for this course. Check out our free, web-based course that trains mental health professionals to use TF-CBT. Free CE credits are available.
Look what’s new! The TF-CBT National Therapist Certification Program has been updated to be more user friendly and informative. Therapists who have met the training requirements for TF-CBT can register on the site with a user name and password. They then submit an application. Once the application is approved, they can take the certification exam. Once certified, they are listed on the site with their contact information plus have access to a variety of TF-CBT resources, including research articles, implementation, tips, etc.
We are pleased to announce the availability of CTGWeb, a free web-based learning course for childhood traumatic grief. CTGWeb teaches mental health professionals familiar with TF-CBT treatment model to implement TF-CBT with cases of childhood traumatic grief. Learn More
Still have questions about how to implement TF-CBT after completing TF-CBTWeb or CTGWeb? Through a free consultation program sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the answers to your TF-CBT implementation questions are now available. In a format similar to Web MD, just type in your questions, and find written answers, brief video explanations and detailed demonstration videos showing you how to do it. Learn More
National Child Traumatic Stress Network is pleased and excited to announce a new video and webinar that discuss the impact of trauma on LGBTQ youth. The video and webinar address how bias impedes optimal care and provide practical steps for creating safe and welcoming environments for traumatized LGBTQ youth. The new video features five LGBTQ youth and National Child Traumatic Stress professionals. The youth describe how trauma and bias have impacted their ability to feel safe when seeking services. NCTSN professionals discuss specific steps that professionals and organizations can take to create a safer and more welcoming environment for traumatized LGBTQ youth. Both the video and webinar are accessible from the NCTSN sexual abuse web page.