Trauma is best defined as the experience of violence and victimization including sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe neglect, loss, domestic violence or the witnessing of violence, terrorism, or disasters. Trauma shapes children’s beliefs about their identity, world view, and spirituality. Children who have experienced complex traumas may develop responses which include intense fear, horror, and helplessness. They often feel an overwhelming sense of stress that interferes with their ability to cope.
Children who have experienced trauma also have overlapping problems with mental health, addictions, physical health and are victims of crime. They may adopt high risk behaviors, such as eating disorders, smoking, substance abuse, self-harm, and sexual promiscuity as coping mechanisms.
Trauma-Informed Care is a Best Practice treatment philosophy that incorporates an appreciation for the high prevalence of traumatic experiences in children who receive mental health services. The course in treatment requires a thorough understanding of the profound neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma on a child and all members of the treatment team must work closely together and be consistent in their interactions with the children.
The training of the staff members is intensive to ensure their knowledge, sensitivity, compassion and understanding that each child is desperately in search of someone who will value them and love them for who they are.
Building on key principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment, trauma-informed services are designed to be welcoming and hospitable for all children in treatment. Trauma-specific interventions are designed specifically to address the effects of trauma on the individual child and to facilitate healing.
Successful treatment programs emphasize the following as being critical to positive outcomes among children:
• Services are grounded in the philosophy of Trauma-informed Care.
• The child's need to be respected, informed, connected, and hopeful regarding her own recovery.
• Understanding the relationship between trauma and symptoms of trauma, which include substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.
• The need to work in a collaborative way with children, their family and friends, and community supports that will be available to them following discharge from the treatment program.