No one plans for their child to witness or experience trauma
If you are a caregiver and have found yourself in the position of having a child that has been sexually or physically abused, exposed to domestic violence, or faced a serious accident or illness, you may be wondering what you can do to help.
It can be hard to know where to start.
I'm here to break down the information for you on high quality, evidence-based services for child trauma. I also want to make it as easy as possible for you to figure out where you can go to get access to effective treatment.
What is TF-CBT? Who can benefit?
TF-CBT stands for Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is considered the "gold standard" treatment for children ages 3-18 who have experienced child abuse, neglect, or exposure to other forms of adversity. TF-CBT can also be helpful for children experiencing traumatic grief. Psychologists and therapists use validated screening tools to help determine if symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are present and if treatment is warranted. Not every child who has experienced a trauma needs therapy but for those with symptoms that are impacting their day-to-day life, specialized therapy is available to help.
Why consider online therapy?
There are many reasons a family may choose to participate in TF-CBT through telemedicine:
- Rural families may not have nearby access to specialized, trained providers
- Families who share custody of their children may desire to include both caregivers in treatment but live far apart from one another
- Working parents with busy schedules may struggle to find the time necessary to travel to and from appointments as well as deal with the hassle of finding childcare for their other young children
- Children with medical needs or other disabilities may benefit from participating in treatment at home where they can be accommodated with needed specialized equipment
- Participating in online therapy may feel less overwhelming and scary for children who are hesitant to talk about the trauma they've experienced
When you throw in a global pandemic and agency policies requiring social distancing, you'll find that many are now turning to telemedicine as a way to support their child's mental health.
Does online treatment actually work?
While many providers are just now beginning to offer telemedicine as a part of their practice, TF-CBT has actually been delivered virtually for a number of years and has demonstrated strong efficacy.
- TF-CBT via telemedicine works! Studies have shown clinically meaningful symptom reduction of PTSD symptoms as rated by both children and their caregivers after participating in TF-CBT via telemedicine.
- TF-CBT via telemedicine has demonstrated effectiveness treating a number of different trauma types. This includes treatment for child maltreatment, exposure to violence, and the traumatic loss of a loved one.
- TF-CBT via telemedicine can reduce the likelihood that families will drop out of treatment. Pilot data has shown attrition rates as low as 0%.
Many parents feel hopeless when faced with the prospect of starting therapy with their child. It can be tough to acknowledge that something terrible has happened and you were unable to prevent it. Please know, this is not your fault. It may sound like a cheap platitude, but one of the reasons I love my job is because children are tremendously resilient. When we take the care to address trauma symptoms early on, we have the ability to prevent many of the "grown up" problems (i.e., substance use, major depression, and suicidality) that untreated trauma can create.
Is trauma treatment via telemedicine right for your child?
- Do you have access to a phone, tablet, or computer with camera accessibility?
- Do you have reliable internet access, either through WiFi or cellular hotspot?
- Is there a private place in your home where you and your child could participate in treatment?
- Are you able to make sure a caregiver is present and available during sessions to ensure safety?
- Can your child maintain the attention needed to sit in front of a device for 15-25 minutes?
What can you expect from treatment?
TF-CBT is a skills based treatment, meaning that each activity is designed to be purposeful in helping your child overcome their trauma. Sessions are typically held for one hour per week . Caregivers are actively involved in their child's treatment, helping to support their child's use of newly learned skills. TF-CBT involves three main phases that can typically be completed in 12-20 sessions:
- Learning about trauma and practicing coping skills
- Talking about trauma and processing these experiences
- Integrating information learned to promote future safety
Where can you find online trauma treatment for your child?
Dr. Shields is a nationally certified TF-CBT provider in the state of Oklahoma. She maintains a small number of private practice clients outside of her work at OUHSC and is available to provide tele-mental health care for those in the state of Oklahoma. Interested clients can reach out via the web-based form on her website, here, to learn more about availability.
Dr. Shields also enthusiastically recommends the services provided by the Child Trauma Services program at the OU Health Child Study Center. Therapists on this team are supervised by Nationally Approved trainers within the TF-CBT provider network. They have the ability to offer telemedicine appointments for those located outside of the Oklahoma City metro. Additonal TF-CBT certifed therapists in the state of Oklahoma can be found using the Oklahoma TF-CBT Provider Directory.
How can you learn more?
Wishing you and your loved ones well,