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The Major Types of Child Therapy

These are the therapy approaches most often used with children suffering from trauma or loss. You can expect to encounter one or more of these, depending on the needs of your child and family as well as the style and training of the therapist. Each approach can be effective when it is properly used.

Family Therapy recognizes the importance of the child’s relationships to parents and other family members. The therapist can learn more about the child from family members, and can help family members to get better at supporting the child’s recovery.

Talk Therapy involves helping the child to face the memory, and talk through the various upsetting parts. This is used more with older children and teen-agers.

Play Therapy might include art, puppets, games, or play-acting. Younger children often find it easier to work with their concerns symbolically, and in an active way, rather than by using words.

Parent-Child Therapy focuses on improving the child’s attachment or bond to the parent. There are several brand names including Theraplay and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) uses small rewards or successes as motivators to replace negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with more useful ones, in a systematic, step-wise manner. Trauma-Focused CBT also involves having the child create a book, or talk, to tell the story of the trauma memory.

Pharmacotherapy relies on medication to help a child feel more normal. Rarely used in cases of trauma and loss, its function would be to stabilize a child at risk of suicide or other extreme behavior. Medication would normally be discontinued once the child has successfully completed other treatment and is no longer at risk.

EMDR (eye movement desensitization & reprocessing) and PC (progressive counting) are specialized for helping children to work through a trauma or loss memory thoroughly and quickly, sometimes in a single session. EMDR is better established in the research literature and can be used with all ages, including very young children. PC has some research support and may be a bit easier/faster, especially for older children and teens.

Another good trauma healing option, though not as well researched and hard to find, is Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR).

Where to Next?

The institute provides therapy, training, consultation, information, and resources for those who work with trauma-exposed children, adolescents, and adults. Where would you like to go next?