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Treatment for Trauma in Children and Adolescents

When your child faces a traumatic event, your whole world may feel as if it is upside down. You just want to make it better for your child, and you need your child to get the best care possible.

At Allegheny Health Network (AHN), we offer world-renowned expertise in evaluating and treating children who have experienced traumatic life events or live with post-traumatic stress disorder. Our Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents (CTCSA) is the only one of its kind in western Pennsylvania. Our innovative clinical treatment approaches and research programs have received national recognition.

What causes trauma in childhood?

If your child has experienced traumatic stress, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is common for children and adolescents to live through events that may cause them lasting trauma, stress, and anxiety. Traumatic events may include:

  • Abuse, such as neglect, and psychological, physical, and sexual harm
  • Natural disasters
  • Violence in the home, school, or community
  • Serious accidents or illness in themselves or a loved one
  • Refugee or war experiences, including post-traumatic stress disorder in a parent
  • Losing a loved one

Depending on your child’s age and temperament, they may display a range of trauma symptoms, from separation anxiety to difficulty sleeping to substance abuse.

Symptoms of childhood trauma

If you think your child has experienced trauma or traumatic stress, we can help you get to the root of the problem and determine the best treatment approach for your family. Every child experiences traumatic events differently. Symptoms of childhood trauma may include:

  • Re-experiencing trauma through dreams, play, or behavior
  • Avoiding people, places, and events that remind them of the trauma
  • Refusing to talk about the traumatic event
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Feeling sadness, anger, fear, or anxiety related to the trauma

In addition to those symptoms, you may notice that your child experiences mood changes, such as sadness, fear, or anxiety related to the trauma. Some children will display behavior problems, such as:

  • Having difficulty in school
  • Fighting with family members
  • Struggling with self-care

Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents

When you contact the CTSCA, an intake coordinator will help you explain the details around your child’s traumatic experiences, including the problems they are experiencing. After that, our coordinator will schedule an appointment for you and your child, or refer you to another physician if necessary.

When you arrive at your appointment, you can expect:

  • Initial evaluation: A therapist will meet with you and your child for a one-hour evaluation. You and your child will complete some paperwork to help explain how the trauma affects your family.
  • Post-evaluation meeting: At the end of the evaluation, the therapist will explain the next steps and begin to make a treatment plan for your child.
  • Treatment at the CTSCA: We usually treat parents and caretakers as well as the child. Most treatments involve a weekly therapy session over the course of 12 to 24 weeks.

Contact the center for traumatic stress in children and adolescents

If your child needs help coping with a traumatic event, we can help. Contact the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents directly at 412.330.4328.