Childhood trauma can affect people in various ways. There are many therapy options to help treat the effects of this trauma.

A child can experience trauma in many ways. These include abuse, neglect, witnessing terror attacks, experiencing natural disasters, and stressors from a military lifestyle.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than two-thirds of children report experiencing a traumatic event before age 16. SAMHSA also reports that at least 1 in 7 children experience abuse or neglect each year.

Therapy can help a person manage and overcome the effects of childhood trauma on their mental health.

This article lists and defines different types of therapy for childhood trauma. It also explains how therapy can help.

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Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It helps a person learn how to challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs they may have after trauma.

CPT typically involves 12 sessions. During these sessions, a person learns new ways of managing upsetting thoughts resulting from their trauma with a therapist.

CPT can teach skills to help a person decide new ways to think about the trauma. The basis of CPT is to help an individual change their thoughts, which can also change how they feel.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a type of therapy where parental or caregiver involvement is integral.

A core belief of this therapy is that parents can significantly impact how a child responds to trauma. Greater parental support following trauma can have more positive outcomes for the child.

In TF-CBT, parents and children participate equally in the treatment. It also focuses on gradual exposure to trauma reminders for both the parent and the child.

As the exposure increases, a mental health professional encourages the parent and child to use skills they have learned in other sessions to overcome the negative feelings and emotions these reminders may trigger.

TF-CBT sessions typically involve the mental health professional spending 30 minutes with the child and a separate 30 minutes with the parent. Joint sessions may take place later to encourage optimal parent-child communication.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a structured therapy where a person briefly focuses on their trauma while simultaneously experiencing other stimulation, such as eye movements. This can help reduce the vividness of the memory and the emotion associated with it.

EMDR differs from trauma-focused therapies in various ways. Some of the main ways include that it does not involve:

  • prolonged exposure to traumatic memories
  • detailed description of the trauma
  • challenging unhelpful beliefs
  • homework

The processing of a specific memory can typically occur within one to three sessions of EMDR.

Learn more about EMDR.

Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy teaches a person how to gradually approach memories, feelings, and situations related to trauma. This is based on the belief that by confronting specific challenges, a person can help decrease the issues they face due to the trauma and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), if it is present.

Avoiding memories, situations, and feelings is common among people who have experienced trauma. However, avoidance can hinder a person from recovering from the event.

PE therapy helps a person face their fears. In turn, it can help them decrease symptoms they may experience.

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Play is considered an essential part of a child’s growth and expression. This is why play therapy is often seen as a fundamental way of handling difficulties, such as trauma, in childhood.

In play therapy, a qualified mental health professional speaks in a way the child can understand. The therapist gets on the floor to play with the child. The therapeutic power of play can help the child deal with psychosocial difficulties they may be experiencing. It allows them to express themselves in their own way.

Learn more about play therapy.

Art therapy is a type of therapy that can help enrich the lives of individuals, communities, and families through the creative process and active art-making.

A professional art therapist can help people of all ages find alternative ways to express themselves, give a voice to their experiences, and help them find empowerment. It can also help improve self-esteem, self-awareness, and cognitive and sensory-motor functioning.

Learn more about art therapy.

Therapy can help a person process a traumatic event. It can help them better understand the trauma and learn ways to heal from it.

Generally, the memories will remain. However, therapy can help a person’s memories have less control over their emotions. This can make the memories and emotions less disruptive to the person’s day to day.

Therapy can also help people, including children, find more effective ways to express themselves and cope with trauma.

Learn more about trauma.

Caring adults, such as caregivers and family members, can play an important role in a child’s recovery after a traumatic event.

An adult can help a child heal from trauma in the following ways:

  • Be patient. Patience helps the child understand that it may take time for them to fully recover from trauma.
  • Assure the child they are safe.
  • Explain to the child that they are not responsible for their trauma.
  • Include the whole family in therapy. Seeking professional mental health care can help all family members cope and recover from the trauma.

Various types of therapy can help a child who has experienced a traumatic event. These include cognitive processing therapy, trauma-focused CBT, play therapy, and art therapy.

Mental health professionals can help the child and their caregivers find the most effective type of therapy to help them recover from and cope with trauma.

If a person believes a child in their life may have experienced trauma, they can contact a mental health professional for advice and support.