Unique PTSD Treatment for Children

Positive initial results for USF professor’s innovative treatment for children with PTSD used at Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

USF Assistant Professor Alison Salloum is conducting research on an innovative approach to treating children suffering from trauma. Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News

By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (July 2, 2013) – Trauma in children’s lives is all too prevalent. But the number of therapists is limited as are families’ financial resources for extensive therapy in many cases. 


University of South Florida Assistant Professor Alison Salloum has a promising answer to this problem – involving parents in the therapeutic process under professional supervision.


Her approach is being used in a research study now being conducted at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and it is showing positive initial results.


Children’s traumas range from serious illnesses or accidents to sexual or physical abuse, domestic violence, death of someone close or disasters. Post-traumatic symptoms include uncharacteristic irritability, anger or temper tantrums, difficulty sleeping or nightmares, aggressive behavior and changes in personality. 


Working with the Crisis Center, Salloum has used her Stepped Care Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT) with children, ages three to seven, and their families to study its efficacy over a six- to eight-week period.


In this novel trauma treatment program, all children in the study are under Salloum’s supervision working with a team of highly trained and skilled therapists and a written program guide. Parents and guardians are taught how to help a child who has experienced serious trauma to feel safe again, overcome anxiety and other emotional problems, and reclaim his or her childhood. They provide the therapy to the children at home which limits office visits and can potentially save time and scarce funds.


“Empowering parents to help children cope with the impact of a traumatic event is our goal. Through research and evidence-based practices, we are teaching parents ways to help their children,” said Salloum who is on the faculty of the USF School of Social Work in the College of Behavioral &Community Sciences.  


The Phase 1 results showed that 83 percent of the children who completed treatment responded positively to the program implemented at the Crisis Center.


This is considered step one. A “step up” to more traditional therapist-directed in-office treatment may be necessary for some children.


Following receipt of a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, Salloum began conducting her pilot study focusing on how well the treatment was working – immediately afterwards and three months later. She also looked at how well parents accepted the approach and the economic cost. 


The therapy is provided free of charge and compensation is provided to participants for completing assessments and committing to participate in the program. It is still possible for families to take part in the study. Interested individuals can learn more by calling (813) 264-9955 or by clicking here or visiting http://www.crisiscenter.com/files/dsp/Stepped%20Care%20for%20Young%20Children.pdf.


“Our first priority at the Crisis Center,” said President and CEO David Braughton, “is to ensure that our clients get the help they need to make tomorrow a better day. This joint research project with Dr. Salloum and USF aims to provide children and their families a highly effective, low cost alternative to traditional counseling when dealing with the aftermath of serious trauma. What’s equally important is that parents and children report that their relationship also improves after going through the program.”


Salloum points out that ignoring the immediate and long-term effects of trauma can be problematic.


“Left untreated, many of these children may suffer for a lifetime. We want to change that and make sure children are getting the help they need.”


About Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay brings help, hope and healing to people facing serious life challenges or trauma resulting from sexual assault or abuse, domestic violence, financial distress, substance abuse, medical emergency, suicidal thoughts, emotional or situational problems. Services include free crisis counseling, suicide prevention and support, educational programs, specialized trauma counseling and therapy, case management and financial counseling, and TransCare Medical Transportation Services available 24 hours a day. For more information on Crisis Center, please visit www.crisiscenter.com. The project is supported by Award Number R34MH092373 from the National Institute Of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.