Grief counselors, therapists and social workers have no body of scientific data to draw from when they seek to help traumatized kids, a team of experts reports in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics.
"People come to me and say 'What works?' and I answer, 'We don't really know,'" says Valerie Forman-Hoffman of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who led the study.
"I don't think that what this study is saying is that no treatment works," Forman-Hoffman said in a telephone interview. "I think that what our review shows is that we don't have a good evidence base to make good recommendations."
The need is clear, Forman-Hoffman and her colleagues say.
"Approximately two-thirds of children and adolescents younger than age 18 years will experience at least one traumatic event, creating a critical need to identify effective child trauma interventions," they wrote. Traumatic events in this study included the death of a parent, a violent incident at school, wars, or natural disasters. They did not include personal events such as abuse by a parent or sexual abuse.
"Although some children exposed to trauma do not experience long-term negative consequences in terms of psychological and social functioning, many later develop traumatic stress syndromes, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," they added. PTSD in turn can cause depression, and lead to substance abuse, suicide and behavior disorders.
Image: Girl with grief counselor, via Shutterstock