TOP
SXPY-trauma-icon-2020

Child and Family Trauma Services

At Sussex Psychology we offer specialist trauma services to support children and families who have been through traumatic experiences.

SXPY-trauma-icon-2020

Child and Family Trauma Services

At Sussex Psychology we offer specialist trauma services to support children and families who have been through traumatic experiences.

SXPY-trauma-icon-2020

Child and Family Trauma Services

At Sussex Psychology we offer specialist trauma services to support children and families who have been through traumatic experiences.

SXPY-trauma-icon-2020

Child and Family Trauma Services

At Sussex Psychology we offer specialist trauma services to support children and families who have been through traumatic experiences.

Child and Family Trauma Services

Traumatic life experiences can have a devastating effect on a child’s life, often leaving them vulnerable to recover without highly skilled professional support. Our trauma therapists come with finely tuned therapeutic skills to work sensitively with children and young people who have suffered from adversity and traumatic life experiences.

Trauma is a ‘normal’ reaction to frightening events. It can be caused by witnessing or experiencing extremely distressing or potentially life-threatening events. The research tells us that the impacts of trauma are often related to nature, timing and frequency of early adversity. We know the unfolding impact of traumatic life events is unique for each child but experiences occurring during the first few years of life can have potentially devasting effects on a child’s developing brain throughout life.

Safety and nurture are biological imperatives. Trauma is a chronic disruptions of a child’s experience of safety and connection.

Child and Family Trauma Services

Traumatic life experiences can have a devastating effect on a child’s life, often leaving them vulnerable to recover without highly skilled professional support. Our trauma therapists come with finely tuned therapeutic skills to work sensitively with children and young people who have suffered from adversity and traumatic life experiences.

Trauma is a ‘normal’ reaction to frightening events. It can be caused by witnessing or experiencing extremely distressing or potentially life-threatening events. The research tells us that the impacts of trauma are often related to nature, timing and frequency of early adversity. We know the unfolding impact of traumatic life events is unique for each child but experiences occurring during the first few years of life can have potentially devasting effects on a child’s developing brain throughout life.

Safety and nurture are biological imperatives. Trauma is a chronic disruptions of a child’s experience of safety and connection.

Child and Family Trauma Services

Traumatic life experiences can have a devastating effect on a child’s life, often leaving them vulnerable to recover without highly skilled professional support. Our trauma therapists come with finely tuned therapeutic skills to work sensitively with children and young people who have suffered from adversity and traumatic life experiences.

Trauma is a ‘normal’ reaction to frightening events. It can be caused by witnessing or experiencing extremely distressing or potentially life-threatening events. The research tells us that the impacts of trauma are often related to nature, timing and frequency of early adversity. We know the unfolding impact of traumatic life events is unique for each child but experiences occurring during the first few years of life can have potentially devasting effects on a child’s developing brain throughout life.

Safety and nurture are biological imperatives. Trauma is a chronic disruptions of a child’s experience of safety and connection.

Child and Family Trauma Services

Traumatic life experiences can have a devastating effect on a child’s life, often leaving them vulnerable to recover without highly skilled professional support. Our trauma therapists come with finely tuned therapeutic skills to work sensitively with children and young people who have suffered from adversity and traumatic life experiences.

Trauma is a ‘normal’ reaction to frightening events. It can be caused by witnessing or experiencing extremely distressing or potentially life-threatening events. The research tells us that the impacts of trauma are often related to nature, timing and frequency of early adversity. We know the unfolding impact of traumatic life events is unique for each child but experiences occurring during the first few years of life can have potentially devasting effects on a child’s developing brain throughout life.

Safety and nurture are biological imperatives. Trauma is a chronic disruptions of a child’s experience of safety and connection.

Different forms of Trauma

When a child feels intensely threatened or scared by an event they are involved in or witness we call that event trauma.  Some of the traumatic events children and young people can be exposed to include:

  • Bullying
  • Community Violence
  • Complex Relational Trauma
  • Domestic Violence
  • Developmental Trauma
  • Medical Trauma
  • Natural Disasters
  • Physical Abuse
  • Refugee Trauma
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Traumatic Loss
  • War Trauma

The two major forms of trauma that effect children and young people are:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The symptoms of PTSD in young children are different from those we may see in teens and young adults.   Typically, in young children we see the post traumatic symptoms communicated through disruptive behaviours, repetitive trauma-related play and feeling anxious when separated from parent. They may also have trouble sleeping, being affectionate and struggle in school. It’s very hard for young children to communicate their feelings after a traumatic event.  They struggle putting words to their big feelings and are easily overwhelmed by strong emotions. This can also make it hard for those around them to understand what is going on.

As children begin to mature the symptoms of PTSD are often very similar to those in older children and teens:

  • Intrusive memories: Frightening flashbacks, vivid memories or upsetting dreams about what happened. Experiencing intense physical reactions, such as scary body sensations – i.e. tingling, trembling, shaking and feeling sick
  • Avoidance and numbing: Experiencing memory loss around what happened, avoiding people or places that act as reminders, feeling very distant or detached when talking about what happened
  • Negative feelings: Marked loss of interest in being with friends/peers, being easily upset and feeling very sad, experiencing a range of somatic symptoms
  • Emotional disturbances: Being tense and on guard all the time in case something bad is going to happen, experiencing intense feelings of distress and anxiety, increased sensitivity to certain smells and sounds

Not every child or teen goes on to develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.  PTSD is thought to be our way of coping with overwhelming stress that the body and brain have gone through after traumatising experiences.  Trauma therapy not only provides a space for children and their families learn about how the body and the brain responds to trauma, but also finds creative ways of supporting a child process their traumatic experiences.

Developmental Trauma

Children are easily traumatised when fear is a dominant theme in their lives.  If they spend much of their early life being scared and lack safe adults to care for and protect them, they stay frightened.  When a child is exposed to harmful and neglectful experiences of care over prolonged periods of time this can result in what is known as developmental trauma.

Developmental Trauma not only shatters a child’s inner sense of safety and security but also alters their developing brain.  The brain rapidly develops in utero and during the first few years of life; with a baby’s soft-wired immature brain soaking up new experiences moment by moment and being simultaneously shaped by them. This is one of the key reasons why the developing brain of an infant and young child is more vulnerable to the impact of trauma than that of a teen or adult. The research tells us that developmental trauma can also result from other forms of early life adversity such as:

  • Prenatal exposure to alcohol/drugs/domestic violence
  • Prenatal experiences of invasive medical procedures
  • Premature birth which may require medical interventions as well as frequent separations from parents
  • Prenatal and postnatal neglect
  • Newborn infant who is removed at birth and placed in care

Developmental trauma often gives rise to a constellation of social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive difficulties in a child or young person.  This is primarily because a child’s nervous system adapts to threat in uniquely creative ways to maximise safety and minimise threat.  Yet their ‘survival behaviours’ are commonly misdiagnosed and their complex and challenging behaviours easily misunderstood.  At Sussex Psychology we like to take our time to reflect with parents what their children’s behaviour may be communicating.

Developmental trauma is a chronic disruption of a child’s experience of safety in connection. In the absence of an inner sense of safety a child’s nervous system is primed to survive not connect.  A child’s survival behaviours often exquisitely reflect that loss of connection.  We are dedicated to supporting parents (and professionals) understand how the loss of connection deeply shapes stress biology.  Often, it is simply more about biology than about behaviour.  This is one of the key reasons our approach to working with trauma in children is biologically respectful and developmentally sensitive.

Different forms of Trauma

When a child feels intensely threatened or scared by an event they are involved in or witness we call that event trauma.  Some of the traumatic events children and young people can be exposed to include:

  • Bullying
  • Community Violence
  • Complex Relational Trauma
  • Domestic Violence
  • Developmental Trauma
  • Medical Trauma
  • Natural Disasters
  • Physical Abuse
  • Refugee Trauma
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Traumatic Loss
  • War Trauma

The two major forms of trauma that effect children and young people are:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The symptoms of PTSD in young children are different from those we may see in teens and young adults.   Typically, in young children we see the post traumatic symptoms communicated through disruptive behaviours, repetitive trauma-related play and feeling anxious when separated from parent. They may also have trouble sleeping, being affectionate and struggle in school. It’s very hard for young children to communicate their feelings after a traumatic event.  They struggle putting words to their big feelings and are easily overwhelmed by strong emotions. This can also make it hard for those around them to understand what is going on.

As children begin to mature the symptoms of PTSD are often very similar to those in older children and teens:

  • Intrusive memories: Frightening flashbacks, vivid memories or upsetting dreams about what happened. Experiencing intense physical reactions, such as scary body sensations – i.e. tingling, trembling, shaking and feeling sick
  • Avoidance and numbing: Experiencing memory loss around what happened, avoiding people or places that act as reminders, feeling very distant or detached when talking about what happened
  • Negative feelings: Marked loss of interest in being with friends/peers, being easily upset and feeling very sad, experiencing a range of somatic symptoms
  • Emotional disturbances: Being tense and on guard all the time in case something bad is going to happen, experiencing intense feelings of distress and anxiety, increased sensitivity to certain smells and sounds

Not every child or teen goes on to develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.  PTSD is thought to be our way of coping with overwhelming stress that the body and brain have gone through after traumatising experiences.  Trauma therapy not only provides a space for children and their families learn about how the body and the brain responds to trauma, but also finds creative ways of supporting a child process their traumatic experiences.

Developmental Trauma

Children are easily traumatised when fear is a dominant theme in their lives.  If they spend much of their early life being scared and lack safe adults to care for and protect them, they stay frightened.  When a child is exposed to harmful and neglectful experiences of care over prolonged periods of time this can result in what is known as developmental trauma.

Developmental Trauma not only shatters a child’s inner sense of safety and security but also alters their developing brain.  The brain rapidly develops in utero and during the first few years of life; with a baby’s soft-wired immature brain soaking up new experiences moment by moment and being simultaneously shaped by them. This is one of the key reasons why the developing brain of an infant and young child is more vulnerable to the impact of trauma than that of a teen or adult. The research tells us that developmental trauma can also result from other forms of early life adversity such as:

  • Prenatal exposure to alcohol/drugs/domestic violence
  • Prenatal experiences of invasive medical procedures
  • Premature birth which may require medical interventions as well as frequent separations from parents
  • Prenatal and postnatal neglect
  • Newborn infant who is removed at birth and placed in care

Developmental trauma often gives rise to a constellation of social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive difficulties in a child or young person.  This is primarily because a child’s nervous system adapts to threat in uniquely creative ways to maximise safety and minimise threat.  Yet their ‘survival behaviours’ are commonly misdiagnosed and their complex and challenging behaviours easily misunderstood.  At Sussex Psychology we like to take our time to reflect with parents what their children’s behaviour may be communicating.

Developmental trauma is a chronic disruption of a child’s experience of safety in connection. In the absence of an inner sense of safety a child’s nervous system is primed to survive not connect.  A child’s survival behaviours often exquisitely reflect that loss of connection.  We are dedicated to supporting parents (and professionals) understand how the loss of connection deeply shapes stress biology.  Often, it is simply more about biology than about behaviour.  This is one of the key reasons our approach to working with trauma in children is biologically respectful and developmentally sensitive.

Different forms of Trauma

When a child feels intensely threatened or scared by an event they are involved in or witness we call that event trauma.  Some of the traumatic events children and young people can be exposed to include:

  • Bullying
  • Community Violence
  • Complex Relational Trauma
  • Domestic Violence
  • Developmental Trauma
  • Medical Trauma
  • Natural Disasters
  • Physical Abuse
  • Refugee Trauma
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Traumatic Loss
  • War Trauma

The two major forms of trauma that effect children and young people are:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The symptoms of PTSD in young children are different from those we may see in teens and young adults.   Typically, in young children we see the post traumatic symptoms communicated through disruptive behaviours, repetitive trauma-related play and feeling anxious when separated from parent. They may also have trouble sleeping, being affectionate and struggle in school. It’s very hard for young children to communicate their feelings after a traumatic event.  They struggle putting words to their big feelings and are easily overwhelmed by strong emotions. This can also make it hard for those around them to understand what is going on.

As children begin to mature the symptoms of PTSD are often very similar to those in older children and teens:

  • Intrusive memories: Frightening flashbacks, vivid memories or upsetting dreams about what happened. Experiencing intense physical reactions, such as scary body sensations – i.e. tingling, trembling, shaking and feeling sick
  • Avoidance and numbing: Experiencing memory loss around what happened, avoiding people or places that act as reminders, feeling very distant or detached when talking about what happened
  • Negative feelings: Marked loss of interest in being with friends/peers, being easily upset and feeling very sad, experiencing a range of somatic symptoms
  • Emotional disturbances: Being tense and on guard all the time in case something bad is going to happen, experiencing intense feelings of distress and anxiety, increased sensitivity to certain smells and sounds

Not every child or teen goes on to develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.  PTSD is thought to be our way of coping with overwhelming stress that the body and brain have gone through after traumatising experiences.  Trauma therapy not only provides a space for children and their families learn about how the body and the brain responds to trauma, but also finds creative ways of supporting a child process their traumatic experiences.

Developmental Trauma

Children are easily traumatised when fear is a dominant theme in their lives.  If they spend much of their early life being scared and lack safe adults to care for and protect them, they stay frightened.  When a child is exposed to harmful and neglectful experiences of care over prolonged periods of time this can result in what is known as developmental trauma.

Developmental Trauma not only shatters a child’s inner sense of safety and security but also alters their developing brain.  The brain rapidly develops in utero and during the first few years of life; with a baby’s soft-wired immature brain soaking up new experiences moment by moment and being simultaneously shaped by them. This is one of the key reasons why the developing brain of an infant and young child is more vulnerable to the impact of trauma than that of a teen or adult. The research tells us that developmental trauma can also result from other forms of early life adversity such as:

  • Prenatal exposure to alcohol/drugs/domestic violence
  • Prenatal experiences of invasive medical procedures
  • Premature birth which may require medical interventions as well as frequent separations from parents
  • Prenatal and postnatal neglect
  • Newborn infant who is removed at birth and placed in care

Developmental trauma often gives rise to a constellation of social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive difficulties in a child or young person.  This is primarily because a child’s nervous system adapts to threat in uniquely creative ways to maximise safety and minimise threat.  Yet their ‘survival behaviours’ are commonly misdiagnosed and their complex and challenging behaviours easily misunderstood.  At Sussex Psychology we like to take our time to reflect with parents what their children’s behaviour may be communicating.

Developmental trauma is a chronic disruption of a child’s experience of safety in connection. In the absence of an inner sense of safety a child’s nervous system is primed to survive not connect.  A child’s survival behaviours often exquisitely reflect that loss of connection.  We are dedicated to supporting parents (and professionals) understand how the loss of connection deeply shapes stress biology.  Often, it is simply more about biology than about behaviour.  This is one of the key reasons our approach to working with trauma in children is biologically respectful and developmentally sensitive.

The great challenge is to find ways to reset a child’s physiology so that their survival mechanisms stop working against them. Bessel van der Kolk
The great challenge is to find ways to reset a child’s physiology so that their survival mechanisms stop working against them. Bessel van der Kolk
The great challenge is to find ways to reset a child’s physiology so that their survival mechanisms stop working against them. Bessel van der Kolk
purple leaf icon

Referral and first steps

The first step in making a referral is simply to ring us on 01903 206738 or if you prefer you can also email us on enquiries@sussexpsychology.co.uk.  You will find our office team genuinely warm and sensitive to any questions you may wish to discuss about your child and family.   Generally, we aim to respond to any questions you may have on the same day either by telephone or email.

Our referral forms have been designed so we can gain as much information as possible about the difficulties children and families may be experiencing.  This information not only helps us begin to think about the therapeutic needs of a child and their family but also in deciding who may be best suited to work with them.  Sometimes we may ring parents to talk further about the difficulties described in the referral information before we begin our assessment.  Professional referrals for trauma are usually dealt with on a case by case basis.

purple leaf icon

The Assessment Process

When working with children and families we like to commence with an assessment of a child’s therapeutic needs.  This usually involves a meeting with parents on their own followed by a meeting with child and parent together.  The assessment, which typically takes place over one or two sessions, offers us the space to think more deeply about how trauma is impacting on a child.

Key aim of the assessment for PTSD:

  • Develop a web of understanding around the difficulties a child may be experiencing both at home and school
  • Understand and make sense of these difficulties within the context of their developmental history
  • Make recommendations for treatment that are matched to a child’s unique therapeutic needs

We are dedicated to making space for everyone’s voice during our assessments and throughout all our work.  We often incorporate a range of psychological tests to gain a wider understanding of the difficulties a child is currently experiencing.  We may also involve school during the assessment process to help us gain an understanding of the wider impacts on a child’s capacity to cope.  This helps us identify any additional resources a child may need to enhance safety and stability before commencing therapeutic work.

Due to the complexity of developmental trauma our assessments tend to be much more multi-layered. To help us capture this complexity children and families are generally seen over several sessions. This also offers us a dedicated space to build a more systemic understanding of the therapeutic needs of the whole family.  Our overarching aim is to develop an understanding of:

  • The nature of child’s early life experiences, including prenatal and postnatal experiences of bonding and attachment
  • What was happening in a child or young person’s life during infancy, early childhood, adolescence through to current age
  • The impacts of early life experience on home and school life at this moment in time
  • Any unfolding mental health difficulties that may be emerging
  • A child’s own unique ways of surviving adversity and how that may be helping or hindering them in dealing with everyday challenges
  • The therapeutic needs of parents and the potential impacts of current caregiving challenge
  • The strengths, skills, resiliencies and resources of the child and family

This assessment process for developmental trauma typically involves a meeting with parents on their own followed by a meeting with child and parent together.  We may wish to see a child or young person on their own where this is safe and appropriate to do so.  During the assessment, we will arrange to talk with other professionals (teacher, social worker, mental health practitioners, doctors). A selected range of questionnaires and psychological screening measures are also incorporated into the assessment process.

As a service, we integrate key principles of neurobiology into a comprehensive approach to working with children, families and the wider community in which they live. This means we value:

  • Adopting a biologically respectful approach to understanding the impacts of trauma on the developing nervous system
  • Understanding that trauma is a chronic disruption of safety and connection
  • Working to build a therapeutic web to create opportunities for healing at home and school
  • The unique therapeutic role parents (relatives, teachers and friends) play in the healing process
  • Developing therapeutic activities that are sequenced to match a child’s unique developmental needs
  • Supporting and resourcing parents through the caregiving challenges they may face

In many ways, the assessment can be seen as a first tentative step towards healing. It offers us the space to gently begin to explore what happened and what didn’t happen in a child’s early life and think about how this helps us understand what’s happening now.

purple leaf icon

What happens next?

Once our therapeutic needs assessment has been completed, the next step involves;

  • Arranging a therapeutic planning meeting with parents and key professionals
  • Share our recommendations relating to the sequence of each piece of therapeutic work
  • Working together to prepare flexible therapeutic goals matched to the needs of each child and family

Our priority is establishing safety and stability at home and school. Preparatory therapeutic work usually involves:

  • Establishing baseline physiological state (using appropriate measures) to support enhancing a child’s regulatory capacities
  • Stabilising overly sensitised stress regulating systems and reducing a child’s sensitivity to threat
  • Increasing a child’s capacity to access co-regulation
  • Resourcing parents to sensitively respond to caregiving challenges
  • Nurturing a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection
  • Supporting readiness for learning in school

Additional Assessments

On occasion, a dual approach to the therapeutic care of children and young people may be helpful, especially if they are struggling with emerging mental health difficulties or other developmental problems. We may suggest that a more specialised assessment with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who is sensitive to the complex therapeutic needs of chronically traumatised children and young people. We work closely with a small team of Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists who place a lot of emphasis on more gentle and holistic ways of working with young people and their families.

We understand how hard it is for parents to take this step but often a combined approach to the therapeutic care of traumatised children can add an additional layer of support and stability. We may also recommend further additional specialist assessments including NMT and NME assessments.

purple leaf icon

Referral and first steps

The first step in making a referral is simply to ring us on 01903 206738 or if you prefer you can also email us on enquiries@sussexpsychology.co.uk.  You will find our office team genuinely warm and sensitive to any questions you may wish to discuss about your child and family.   Generally, we aim to respond to any questions you may have on the same day either by telephone or email.

Our referral forms have been designed so we can gain as much information as possible about the difficulties children and families may be experiencing.  This information not only helps us begin to think about the therapeutic needs of a child and their family but also in deciding who may be best suited to work with them.  Sometimes we may ring parents to talk further about the difficulties described in the referral information before we begin our assessment.  Professional referrals for trauma are usually dealt with on a case by case basis.

purple leaf icon

The Assessment Process

When working with children and families we like to commence with an assessment of a child’s therapeutic needs.  This usually involves a meeting with parents on their own followed by a meeting with child and parent together.  The assessment, which typically takes place over one or two sessions, offers us the space to think more deeply about how trauma is impacting on a child.

Key aim of the assessment for PTSD:

  • Develop a web of understanding around the difficulties a child may be experiencing both at home and school
  • Understand and make sense of these difficulties within the context of their developmental history
  • Make recommendations for treatment that are matched to a child’s unique therapeutic needs

We are dedicated to making space for everyone’s voice during our assessments and throughout all our work.  We often incorporate a range of psychological tests to gain a wider understanding of the difficulties a child is currently experiencing.  We may also involve school during the assessment process to help us gain an understanding of the wider impacts on a child’s capacity to cope.  This helps us identify any additional resources a child may need to enhance safety and stability before commencing therapeutic work.

Due to the complexity of developmental trauma our assessments tend to be much more multi-layered. To help us capture this complexity children and families are generally seen over several sessions. This also offers us a dedicated space to build a more systemic understanding of the therapeutic needs of the whole family.  Our overarching aim is to develop an understanding of:

  • The nature of child’s early life experiences, including prenatal and postnatal experiences of bonding and attachment
  • What was happening in a child or young person’s life during infancy, early childhood, adolescence through to current age
  • The impacts of early life experience on home and school life at this moment in time
  • Any unfolding mental health difficulties that may be emerging
  • A child’s own unique ways of surviving adversity and how that may be helping or hindering them in dealing with everyday challenges
  • The therapeutic needs of parents and the potential impacts of current caregiving challenge
  • The strengths, skills, resiliencies and resources of the child and family

This assessment process for developmental trauma typically involves a meeting with parents on their own followed by a meeting with child and parent together.  We may wish to see a child or young person on their own where this is safe and appropriate to do so.  During the assessment, we will arrange to talk with other professionals (teacher, social worker, mental health practitioners, doctors). A selected range of questionnaires and psychological screening measures are also incorporated into the assessment process.

As a service, we integrate key principles of neurobiology into a comprehensive approach to working with children, families and the wider community in which they live. This means we value:

  • Adopting a biologically respectful approach to understanding the impacts of trauma on the developing nervous system
  • Understanding that trauma is a chronic disruption of safety and connection
  • Working to build a therapeutic web to create opportunities for healing at home and school
  • The unique therapeutic role parents (relatives, teachers and friends) play in the healing process
  • Developing therapeutic activities that are sequenced to match a child’s unique developmental needs
  • Supporting and resourcing parents through the caregiving challenges they may face

In many ways, the assessment can be seen as a first tentative step towards healing. It offers us the space to gently begin to explore what happened and what didn’t happen in a child’s early life and think about how this helps us understand what’s happening now.

purple leaf icon

What happens next?

Once our therapeutic needs assessment has been completed, the next step involves;

  • Arranging a therapeutic planning meeting with parents and key professionals
  • Share our recommendations relating to the sequence of each piece of therapeutic work
  • Working together to prepare flexible therapeutic goals matched to the needs of each child and family

Our priority is establishing safety and stability at home and school. Preparatory therapeutic work usually involves:

  • Establishing baseline physiological state (using appropriate measures) to support enhancing a child’s regulatory capacities
  • Stabilising overly sensitised stress regulating systems and reducing a child’s sensitivity to threat
  • Increasing a child’s capacity to access co-regulation
  • Resourcing parents to sensitively respond to caregiving challenges
  • Nurturing a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection
  • Supporting readiness for learning in school

Additional Assessments

On occasion, a dual approach to the therapeutic care of children and young people may be helpful, especially if they are struggling with emerging mental health difficulties or other developmental problems. We may suggest that a more specialised assessment with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who is sensitive to the complex therapeutic needs of chronically traumatised children and young people. We work closely with a small team of Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists who place a lot of emphasis on more gentle and holistic ways of working with young people and their families.

We understand how hard it is for parents to take this step but often a combined approach to the therapeutic care of traumatised children can add an additional layer of support and stability. We may also recommend further additional specialist assessments including NMT and NME assessments.

purple leaf icon

Referral and first steps

The first step in making a referral is simply to ring us on 01903 206738 or if you prefer you can also email us on enquiries@sussexpsychology.co.uk.  You will find our office team genuinely warm and sensitive to any questions you may wish to discuss about your child and family.   Generally, we aim to respond to any questions you may have on the same day either by telephone or email.

Our referral forms have been designed so we can gain as much information as possible about the difficulties children and families may be experiencing.  This information not only helps us begin to think about the therapeutic needs of a child and their family but also in deciding who may be best suited to work with them.  Sometimes we may ring parents to talk further about the difficulties described in the referral information before we begin our assessment.  Professional referrals for trauma are usually dealt with on a case by case basis.

purple leaf icon

The Assessment Process

When working with children and families we like to commence with an assessment of a child’s therapeutic needs.  This usually involves a meeting with parents on their own followed by a meeting with child and parent together.  The assessment, which typically takes place over one or two sessions, offers us the space to think more deeply about how trauma is impacting on a child.

Key aim of the assessment for PTSD:

  • Develop a web of understanding around the difficulties a child may be experiencing both at home and school
  • Understand and make sense of these difficulties within the context of their developmental history
  • Make recommendations for treatment that are matched to a child’s unique therapeutic needs

We are dedicated to making space for everyone’s voice during our assessments and throughout all our work.  We often incorporate a range of psychological tests to gain a wider understanding of the difficulties a child is currently experiencing.  We may also involve school during the assessment process to help us gain an understanding of the wider impacts on a child’s capacity to cope.  This helps us identify any additional resources a child may need to enhance safety and stability before commencing therapeutic work.

Due to the complexity of developmental trauma our assessments tend to be much more multi-layered. To help us capture this complexity children and families are generally seen over several sessions. This also offers us a dedicated space to build a more systemic understanding of the therapeutic needs of the whole family.  Our overarching aim is to develop an understanding of:

  • The nature of child’s early life experiences, including prenatal and postnatal experiences of bonding and attachment
  • What was happening in a child or young person’s life during infancy, early childhood, adolescence through to current age
  • The impacts of early life experience on home and school life at this moment in time
  • Any unfolding mental health difficulties that may be emerging
  • A child’s own unique ways of surviving adversity and how that may be helping or hindering them in dealing with everyday challenges
  • The therapeutic needs of parents and the potential impacts of current caregiving challenge
  • The strengths, skills, resiliencies and resources of the child and family

This assessment process for developmental trauma typically involves a meeting with parents on their own followed by a meeting with child and parent together.  We may wish to see a child or young person on their own where this is safe and appropriate to do so.  During the assessment, we will arrange to talk with other professionals (teacher, social worker, mental health practitioners, doctors). A selected range of questionnaires and psychological screening measures are also incorporated into the assessment process.

As a service, we integrate key principles of neurobiology into a comprehensive approach to working with children, families and the wider community in which they live. This means we value:

  • Adopting a biologically respectful approach to understanding the impacts of trauma on the developing nervous system
  • Understanding that trauma is a chronic disruption of safety and connection
  • Working to build a therapeutic web to create opportunities for healing at home and school
  • The unique therapeutic role parents (relatives, teachers and friends) play in the healing process
  • Developing therapeutic activities that are sequenced to match a child’s unique developmental needs
  • Supporting and resourcing parents through the caregiving challenges they may face

In many ways, the assessment can be seen as a first tentative step towards healing. It offers us the space to gently begin to explore what happened and what didn’t happen in a child’s early life and think about how this helps us understand what’s happening now.

purple leaf icon

What happens next?

Once our therapeutic needs assessment has been completed, the next step involves;

  • Arranging a therapeutic planning meeting with parents and key professionals
  • Share our recommendations relating to the sequence of each piece of therapeutic work
  • Working together to prepare flexible therapeutic goals matched to the needs of each child and family

Our priority is establishing safety and stability at home and school. Preparatory therapeutic work usually involves:

  • Establishing baseline physiological state (using appropriate measures) to support enhancing a child’s regulatory capacities
  • Stabilising overly sensitised stress regulating systems and reducing a child’s sensitivity to threat
  • Increasing a child’s capacity to access co-regulation
  • Resourcing parents to sensitively respond to caregiving challenges
  • Nurturing a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection
  • Supporting readiness for learning in school

Additional Assessments

On occasion, a dual approach to the therapeutic care of children and young people may be helpful, especially if they are struggling with emerging mental health difficulties or other developmental problems. We may suggest that a more specialised assessment with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who is sensitive to the complex therapeutic needs of chronically traumatised children and young people. We work closely with a small team of Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists who place a lot of emphasis on more gentle and holistic ways of working with young people and their families.

We understand how hard it is for parents to take this step but often a combined approach to the therapeutic care of traumatised children can add an additional layer of support and stability. We may also recommend further additional specialist assessments including NMT and NME assessments.

Therapeutic Approach

Healing from trauma is always a delicate balance between safety and risk. One of the central tasks of trauma therapy for a child and family is to create a sense of safety in connection.  The research tells us when working with chronically traumatised children it is important therapy happens in the right sequence and at the right time. Adopting a sequential approach to therapy for developmental trauma is key to healing and recovery.  Our aim is to replicate the normal sequence of brain development that may have been interrupted because of a child’s early life experiences of trauma and neglect.

Working with the brainstem

The developing brain of the baby in utero is especially vulnerable to the impacts of maternal stress hormones and other neurotoxins such as alcohol and drugs that can easily disrupt the delicate neural architecture of the brainstem. Bonding post birth is a continuation of the sensory connection established pre-birth.  Early impaired bonding experiences (especially during the perinatal period; 0-8wks) or traumatic attachment disruptions in early life can lead to disturbances in baseline states of arousal (calm, alert, alarm, fear and terror) linked to survival reactions; fight, flight, freeze and submit.

What this means is that chronically traumatised children;

  • Do not have the capacity to regulate baseline states of arousal simply because their nervous system has adapted to help them survive
  • Cannot easily access resting states of calm or alert because their system is primed to survive – i.e. fight, take flight, freeze or submit
  • Their ‘baseline resting state’ of arousal is likely to one of alarm or fear keeping them locked into cycles of highly dysregulated brainstem-based survival states.

Dr Bruce Perry, an inspirational Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist from the Child Trauma Academy, tells us that the brain is rhythmic, and rhythm is regulating.

We know that early life trauma disrupts the rhythmic flow of the brainstem and midbrain systems.  When working with the brainstem we’re working directly with ‘The Threatful Self’ which is why the therapeutic focus of our work is targeting diminishing vigilance and restoring rhythmic regulation by;

  • Supporting regulation of baseline physiological states to reduce (hyper-reactive and hypo-reactive) levels of arousal
  • Stabilising overly sensitised stress regulation systems and reducing a child’s sensitivity to threat
  • Increasing a child’s capacity to access co-regulation through rhythmic interactions
  • Increasing a parent’s or carer’s capacity for self-regulation
  • Resourcing caregiving challenge

Our brainstem-based interventions focus on rhythmic activities and rhythmic interactions to provide patterned, repetitive neural input into the brainstem and diencephalon to through;

  • Animal assisted therapies – canine and equine
  • Nature assisted therapies
  • Drumming, musical and movement activities
  • Yoga-based movement activities accessing brainstem and medulla to regulate the breath
  • Therapeutic massage combined with Neuroaffective touch
  • Parallel play to support co-regulation
  • Sensory rich activities to support sensory integration
  • Therapeutic parenting to support co-regulation and heal impaired bonding
  • Scaffolding ‘readiness for learning’ at home and/or school through nature assisted and animal assisted therapeutic activities

Working with the emotional brain

Children who have suffered from early life adversity, trauma and neglect have often never experienced safety in connection.  Therapeutic work focussing on processing traumatic memories may take years before it is safe enough to commence.  While decisions about the timing of therapeutic interventions are made on a case by case basis, we generally like to drop below the trauma to stabilise the innate alarm system and allowing for the possibility of safety in connection to begin to take root.

When the nervous system is mediated through the ‘threatful self’ this means that the innate alarm system and the innate connection systems are working together to secure safety.  It also means that there has needed to be a departure from connection to survive.  Safety and nurture are biological imperatives; in the absence of connection, vigilance increases, and the self disappears.

To re-establish stability in both the innate alarm and innate connections systems (which are brainstem-based) working with the emotional brain needs to focus on diminishing vigilance and nurturing reconnection through:

  • Building nature-assisted nurture surrounds to promote reconnection
  • Neuroaffective touch to stabilise innate alarm and innate connection systems
  • Nurturing safety in connection through sensory rich theraplay activities
  • Working in parallel with creative arts-based activities, including rhythmic music and movement
  • Resourcing caregiving challenge
  • Healing impaired bonding and building a stable foundation for attachment

To support diminishing vigilance and nurturing safety in connection our therapeutic work with the emotional brain often includes:

  • Animal/Nature assisted therapeutic activities and interventions
  • Drumming, musical and movement activities
  • Creative arts including drama
  • Yoga based movement activities to support rhythmic regulation of breath
  • Therapeutic massage and Neuroaffective therapeutic touch
  • Attachment based play therapy
  • Attachment based EMDR
  • Sensory rich theraplay activities
  • Therapeutic parenting supporting co-regulation
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy to build safety in connection
  • Scaffolding ‘readiness for learning’ at home and/or school through nature/animal assisted therapeutic activities

Working with the thinking brain

A child who is chronically traumatised is often deeply compromised in their ability to access the same learning opportunities as their same-age peers.  Educationally based therapeutic activities that are more consistent with the sequence of brain development offer greater support for these children.  Often a less structured educational experience is more effective in supporting a child’s ‘readiness for learning’.  In school teaching may need to be combined with therapeutic educational activities ‘outside’ of a structured learning space, so the nervous system gets the opportunity to experience safety in the world.

At home and school, we work with the thinking brain to create more rhythmic opportunities for learning to emerge through:

  • Restoring a more stable sense of identity
  • Supporting the emergence of new experiences of safety in the world
  • Creating optimal learning spaces to support the emergence of self-regulation
  • Supporting the process of seeding a new narrative of self

Supporting the emergence of safety in the world is key to forging a more stable sense of self and for supporting the emergence of safety in the world.  To achieve this our therapeutic work with the thinking brain includes:

  • Attachment-focussed EMDR
  • Attachment-focused Play Therapy
  • Creative arts therapies including, music, movement, yoga and drama
  • Family therapy
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
  • Therapeutic life story work

Some of the therapeutic interventions for working with developmental trauma

Restoring a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection is key to healing and recovery.  While there is no single therapeutic approach that holds that key alone, we believe that working from the bottom-up (starting with the brainstem) and sequencing therapeutic interventions that target disrupted connections and poorly organised brain systems offers us a neurobiological and relational gateway to healing.

  • Attachment-informed EMDR
  • Dyadic Art Psychotherapy
  • Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)
  • Drama Therapy
  • Equine Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
  • Systemic Family Therapy
  • Sensory Attachment Intervention
  • Theraplay
  • Therapeutic Life Story Work
person in trauma leaves

Some of the therapeutic interventions for working with developmental trauma

Restoring a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection is key to healing and recovery.  While there is no single therapeutic approach that holds that key alone, we believe that working from the bottom-up (starting with the brainstem) and sequencing therapeutic interventions that target disrupted connections and poorly organised brain systems offers us a neurobiological and relational gateway to healing.

  • Attachment-informed EMDR
  • Dyadic Art Psychotherapy
  • Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)
  • Drama Therapy
  • Equine Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
  • Systemic Family Therapy
  • Sensory Attachment Intervention
  • Theraplay
  • Therapeutic Life Story Work
person in trauma leaves
person in trauma leaves

Some of the therapeutic interventions for working with developmental trauma

Restoring a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection is key to healing and recovery.  While there is no single therapeutic approach that holds that key alone, we believe that working from the bottom-up (starting with the brainstem) and sequencing therapeutic interventions that target disrupted connections and poorly organised brain systems offers us a neurobiological and relational gateway to healing.

  • Attachment-informed EMDR
  • Dyadic Art Psychotherapy
  • Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)
  • Drama Therapy
  • Equine Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
  • Systemic Family Therapy
  • Sensory Attachment Intervention
  • Theraplay
  • Therapeutic Life Story Work
person in trauma leaves

Some of the therapeutic interventions for working with developmental trauma

Restoring a child’s capacity to experience safety in connection is key to healing and recovery.  While there is no single therapeutic approach that holds that key alone, we believe that working from the bottom-up (starting with the brainstem) and sequencing therapeutic interventions that target disrupted connections and poorly organised brain systems offers us a neurobiological and relational gateway to healing.

  • Attachment-informed EMDR
  • Dyadic Art Psychotherapy
  • Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)
  • Drama Therapy
  • Equine Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
  • Systemic Family Therapy
  • Sensory Attachment Intervention
  • Theraplay
  • Therapeutic Life Story Work

Request a consultation

Request a consultation