Core Competencies for Trauma-informed Therapy with Children and Families
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This thesis outlines the core components of a neurobiologically-informed trauma framework for therapists working with children and families. Complex developmental trauma (CDT) is often accompanied by relational or attachment trauma with a child’s primary caregiver during critical developmental stages. Therapist knowledge of neurotypical development as well as the neuobiological effects of trauma on the developing brain are important primers that provide necessary context for the assessment and treatment of CDT. The work of trauma recovery falls into three broad categories: strengthen attachment, regulate the nervous system, and develop self-capacities (Saakvitne, 2017). The key component of a trauma-informed practice is the centrality of creating and maintaining therapeutic safety. Once safety is established in the therapeutic relationship, therapists, grounded in self-awareness, can then assist children to develop their own interoception and recognize their windows of tolerance. Therapists can help children to develop their own preferred self-regulation strategies, practiced during times of low stress, then utilize titration and pendulation to assist children to increase their windows of tolerance as they employ their practiced self-regulation strategies during mild stress within the safety of the therapy session. Each of these steps builds resilience. This thesis also queries whether the telling of one’s trauma is a necessary step in the neural integration and ultimate recovery from CDT. Perry (2014) summarizes the elements needed for integrated trauma-recovery. These elements are not new. Rather, they are old wisdom practiced by indigenous cultures across the world and now supported by neurobiological research.