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Little Known on How to Best Help Kids After Trauma
Date:2/11/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- When children go through a trauma -- whether it's as rare as a school shooting or as common as a car accident -- they may need therapy to help them deal with it. But new research finds that experts know little about which types of therapy actually work.

The review, of 22 published studies, found that certain forms of "talk therapy" seemed effective for some kids exposed to traumas like a natural disaster, school violence or an accident.

The best evidence was for programs offered at schools that involved cognitive behavioral therapy -- where counselors help kids talk about and change unhealthy thoughts and habits they have developed in response to the trauma.

But all in all, the published research offers little to go on, according to the review, published online Feb. 11 and in March print issue of Pediatrics.

"I was really surprised," said lead researcher Valerie Forman-Hoffman, an epidemiologist at the RTI International research institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "I thought we'd have all this evidence that we could synthesize to help make recommendations."

But that wasn't the case. Forman-Hoffman's team scoured more than 6,600 articles published in the medical literature. And they found only 22 studies that met their criteria for a well-designed, rigorous look at therapies for children exposed to traumatic events.

Some studies included children who'd gone through a trauma but weren't yet having symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome; others focused on kids who did have symptoms.

In children, post-traumatic stress can manifest in a range of ways, including difficulty sleeping, nightmares, concentration problems and worrisome reactions to reminders of the traumatic event. For example, If a child was in a car accident, the sounds of an ambulance siren, even months later, might be upsetting.

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