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Depress Anxiety. 2005;22(4):177-89.

Psychosocial treatment of pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder: the neglected field of single-incident trauma.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Despite the prevalence of childhood trauma, studies regarding psychotherapy for children suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are scarce, especially regarding the treatment for pediatric PTSD following single-incident trauma. Treatment practices for this population rely mainly on the paradigms of therapy for adult PTSD and pediatric PTSD following sexual abuse. This review outlines the studies published in the last 10 years pertaining to the treatment of pediatric PTSD following single-incident trauma. This is done in the context of available literature on the paradigms mentioned above. Of 742 articles dealing with treatment of pediatric trauma, 10 were found relevant to the treatment of pediatric PTSD following single-incident trauma. The modalities of treatment most frequently reported in this context were cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and play therapy. As a whole, CBT studies were methodologically more rigorous, used manualized, reproducible treatment, and were group, school-based therapies. EMDR treatments were usually short and individual. Most studies showed statistically significant improvement but were still methodologically lacking. We conclude that research on the subject of treatment for pediatric PTSD following single-incident trauma constitutes a neglected part of the study of pediatric PTSD. This stands in contrast to the obvious prevalence of this type of trauma. We encourage future research that will address issues such as clarifying the role of pharmacotherapy, comparing different modes of treatment, dismantling treatment "packages," researching developmentally sensitive treatments, conducting long-term follow-up, and comparing different PTSD populations.

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