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Suggested Uses for the Trauma Reaction Cards

May 22, 2019

Suggested Uses for the Trauma Reaction Cards

By Beth Richey, LCSW

 The Trauma Reaction Cards for Children & Adolescents were created to be used in a therapeutic setting with youth who have experienced trauma or other stressful life events. These cards capture the youth’s post trauma experience through the use of engaging visuals and interaction between the therapist and the individual. Here are three ways to use the cards with young children, parents, and older teens who may be hesitant to engage in trauma treatment.

  1. Explain to children (after exploring trauma and what their traumas were) that most humans have lasting reactions to traumas, and these cards are examples of such. Explain that there are four areas that trauma tends to impact us (our behaviors, body, feelings, brain/thinking), and separate the colors into the four categories. Flip up the cards, one by one, reading aloud the words and showing the image while making eye contact and waiting for them to indicate if this is true or not for them. Place the YES cards into a separate pile. Bonus: Decorate a small container with sparkles/stickers and write YES on it for the endorsed cards to go into. Put the No cards in another small container such as a miniature trash can. Document the cards endorsed using the Trauma Reaction Cards Checklist (which can be downloaded from www.childswork.com) to monitor reduction in symptoms over the course of treatment.
  2. Use the Trauma Reaction Cards with caregivers in the beginning of treatment to help them view a child’s PTSD symptoms as a reaction to trauma, as opposed to viewing them as a reflection of the child’s poor character. Meet with caregiver alone and ask them to help you get a better understanding of their child’s post trauma symptoms by going through the cards and picking out ones they feel their child experiences. After going through them all, explain that their child is having normal reactions to an abnormal event. Explain that the pile they identified is their child's unique post trauma symptoms which will be focused on during trauma therapy. This activity can help caregivers access their empathy when they have been “drained” due to dealing with difficult behaviors. Document the cards endorsed using the included Trauma Reaction Cards Checklist to monitor reduction in symptoms over the course of treatment.
  3. Use the Trauma Reaction Cards with teenagers who struggle to engage in trauma treatment. Provide psychoeducation on trauma reactions and the four areas that trauma tends to impact us (our behaviors, body, feelings, brain/thinking). Flip up the cards, one by one, reading aloud the words and showing the image while making eye contact and waiting for them to indicate if this is true or not for them. Place the YES cards into a separate pile. When complete, the yes pile is often substantial. Explore what their life and relationships have been like carrying around so much of that weight (as represented in the pile of endorsed trauma reaction cards). Highlight that though sometimes difficult, trauma therapy can help put the youth back in the driver seat of their life and “lighten the load” of the trauma reactions they are experiencing. Document the cards endorsed using the included Trauma Reaction Cards Checklist to monitor reduction in symptoms over the course of treatment. Show the teen their progress through time.




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