Host: What kind of professional help is appropriate for my child after a school shooting? Dr. Hayley Sherwood: Frequently used approaches in individual treatment with a child or adolescent after a school shooting are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Expressive Therapy and with a younger child Play Therapy.
Children in adolescent are sometimes seen for medication consultation and management as well. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on changing maladaptive behaviors and the thoughts that can fuel those behaviors. There are many behavioral techniques used with traumatized children including desensitization, in which with the therapist a child is gradually exposed to less feared objects while being thought to relax simultaneously until the child is able to confront the most feared object or situation successfully.
Cognitive techniques helps children replace self defeating thoughts with more positive ones. For instance when a traumatized child believes he or she is helpless, the therapist may challenge and work with this belief.
Expressive Therapies use art and movement to help a child explore and heal. At times children who are severely traumatized can communicate only through a medium that is beyond words. 1