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Flippen: Improving the mental health of your little one this summer

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By Zoë Flippen | Point of View

Many parents cannot fathom that their child has been exposed to some level of trauma. However, a recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study states that more than two-thirds of children report at least one traumatic event by the age of 16.

Childhood trauma can arise from various sources including abuse, community and domestic violence, natural disasters, sexual exploitation, loss of a loved one, war, neglect, and more.

It is important to recognize that trauma can manifest in different types and degrees, often categorized as small “t” and large “T” trauma.

According to Psychology Today, someone doesn’t have to go through an extremely upsetting event for it to be considered trauma – it can be an accumulation of smaller events or behaviors. Some examples of small “t” trauma can be interpersonal conflict, infidelity, divorce, abrupt or extended relocation, legal trouble, financial worries, etc.

Trauma at a young age, whether it is small “t” or large “T,” can impact brain development, leading to unhealthy and difficult behaviors, like acting out, aggression, self-harm, sleep disturbances and struggles with regulating emotions.

These behaviors aren’t life sentences; with the right intervention, children can find appropriate coping skills.

The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics developed by Dr. Bruce Perry and the Neurosequential Network is an evidence-based, trauma-informed and brain-based approach to clinical problem-solving. In simple terms, it is a process that organizes brain development in a way that allows clinicians to recognize what experiences have impacted a child’s developing brain, identify their problems and strengths and use that information to apply interventions that help the child and family.

Improving the mental health of your little one this summer

As an evidence-based practice, NMT uses brain mapping to identify the development of a child’s stress response system which allows a clinician to make neurobiologically informed decisions for therapeutic intervention and support the treatment plan.

Starting therapy – especially for a child –can be intimidating. However, starting therapy while kids are on summer break can be a perfect time for children to begin this process. Since kids don’t have to worry about school and have extra time on their hands, they can feel fully immersed in the process.

The NMT program includes a comprehensive initial consultation; a clinical summary that highlights all developmental, medical, and historical data; an initial NMT Metric that emphasizes the client’s unique brain map; professional staffing with external providers to review metric recommendations and implementation; and a family consultation to review metric components.

In five years, Arizona’s Children Association has treated 2,500 patients through NMT.

Editor’s note: Zoë Flippen is Arizona’s Children Associations’ neurosequential model of therapeutics program administrator.

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