Therapy for Traumatic Stress in Children

Children with traumatic stress experience post-traumatic emotions even in situations when there is no immediate threat. This can interrupt a child’s normal development, but treatment helps reduce symptoms of traumatic stress and offers your child support and guidance as he or she recovers.

The child and adolescent psychologists and psychiatrists at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, use psychotherapy to manage traumatic stress. The therapy is influenced by the Child Study Center’s own treatment model called Trauma Systems Therapy.

Our experts focus on learning about the types of situations that lead to a child feeling unsafe and overwhelmed by emotion. Therapy assists both children and parents: A child can learn to better manage his or her emotions and a parent can learn how to help the child feel safe.

Our psychologists and psychiatrists also work with other family members, teachers, and other adults in the child’s life to support the child in facing a stressful situation. With therapy, the child can change how he or she reacts, and the parents and family members can learn how to better support the child.


Psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, involves a child meeting with a mental health professional to identify and work through the problems that may result from or contribute to traumatic stress. Psychotherapy usually takes place one-on-one with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed clinical social worker.

Therapists use a variety of techniques to treat traumatic stress in children. These include relationship building between your child and the therapist and discussing how the condition affects your child’s daily life. The goals include improving communication and changing behavior to improve overall mental health.

Psychotherapy can help your child address his or her feelings of helplessness or worries about safety, and it can identify helpful thoughts and actions to overcome his or her traumatic stress.

Your child’s therapist asks for your partnership in therapy, including participation in some therapy sessions, to aid in the recovery process.

Trauma Systems Therapy

Trauma Systems Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that includes a multiphase treatment program for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events, live in environments with ongoing traumatic stress, or a combination of the two.

Trauma Systems Therapy is designed to address the complicated needs of a “trauma system.” This system includes the traumatized child, who has difficulty regulating emotion and behavior when exposed to trauma reminders, and caregivers who can’t adequately protect the child or help him or her manage these emotions.

Children who may benefit from Trauma Systems Therapy include those living in foster care or residential treatment centers, as well as children reached through community-based prevention programs and programs for unaccompanied minors from another country.

Trauma Systems Therapy was pioneered by a Child Study Center expert, who is a leader in the field of childhood traumatic stress. Our specialists provide consultations and training for agencies and systems across the country that want to implement the program.

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