What are you (and your agency) doing to better respond to trauma disorders in young people? Please share.

by Stars Training Academy   0 Comments

What percentage of your young adults would you estimate have had significant trauma exposures and trauma related disorders? I’ve been posing this question to numerous agencies serving Transition Age Youth and Young Adults (TAYYA) for many years. The answers from TAYYA providers around the country have been enlightening: “Almost all have experienced trauma” has been the most common response. (I’ve seldom heard lower than 95%). Their estimates coincide with my own experiences.

I believe trauma-related disorders are the most predominant challenge confronting the TAYYA population and those trying to help them. If these high estimates are true, what are we doing about it? Are we as a service system ready to recognize and respond to the horrific impacts that trauma inflicts on our young people, their families and communities?

Much progress has been made in recent years in raising awareness about trauma and educating providers and TAYYA about its prevalence and effects on children and youth. But, in my opinion, much work remains to be done in attempting to deliver trauma informed care. I would contend that trauma impacts remain under-reported, under-recognized and under-treated in most TAYYA programs.

Trauma is under-reported. Many young people aren’t aware that they’ve been traumatized. Youth may often feel ashamed and guilty about what has happened in their lives, and are understandably mistrustful about sharing their painful experiences with others. Sensitive assessments must take into account the many variables of who, when and how youth are approached and asked about what has happened to them.

Trauma is under-recognized. Looking at youth through the diagnostic lens of the DSM V continues to obscure trauma more than it identifies trauma. We persist in making diagnoses by identifying symptoms and criteria from lists of various disorders, such as mood disturbances, cognitive and somatic problems, impairments in relating with others and expressing emotion. This approach can result in following the same medical model paradigm of ascertaining what is wrong with the youth, rather than what has happened to them. In addition, the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be far too narrow in its focus on singular events such as accidents, crimes and disasters and their sequelae.

Trauma is under-treated. When I ask the staff about what they do to help the 95% of their members they estimate who are traumatized, there is often an uneasy pause. Many providers report feeling ill-equipped to treat the profound damage they encounter in many young people. Some have had some training in various evidence-based practices. Many of these interventions, such as Trauma-Focused CBT, were developed for children up to age 18, but not TAY age (18 – 25). Few indicate that they see themselves and their agency as delivering “trauma informed care”.

What are you (and your agency) doing to better respond to trauma disorders in young people? Please share.

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