Children suffering mental health problems as a result of traumatic events, may benefit from psychological therapies, according to a new systemic review of studies involving more than 750 children.
This is the first systematic review of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young people, and researchers from the Cochrane Library found that children and teenagers diagnosed with PTSD showed signs of improvement up to three months following treatment.
Researchers have called for more studies to assess long-term benefits, and study lead Donna Gillies of the Western Sydney Local Health District added: "There is fair evidence for the effectiveness of psychological therapies, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, in treating PTSD in children.
"However, more effort needs to be devoted to increasing follow-up in children so we can understand whether these therapies are making a difference in the long-term."
People who develop PTSD have usually experienced extreme traumatic events, such as abuse, war or natural disasters. In children, PTSD can lead to delayed development and behavioural problems. More generally, it is associated with anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies.
A number of psychological therapies are available, including supportive counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which challenges negative thinking but this is the first systematic review to analyse the potential benefits of these therapies.
The review focused on 14 studies that together involved 758 children aged 3-18 suffering from PTSD due to sexual abuse, violence, road accidents or natural disasters. Children who were given psychological therapies showed significant improvements, and anxiety, depression and PTSD symptoms were reduced.
Overall, no one type of treatment was more effective than any other, but the positive effects of CBT were backed up by better evidence. The researchers suggest that further studies address the effects of different psychological therapies, as well as any differences or additive effects of drug treatment compared to psychological therapies.
Click here to read the full review.