Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program
More About Trauma Treatment

Trauma commonly occurs among teens and adolescents in the United States. According to the National Institute of Health, 62% of Americans aged 13-17 years had been exposed to at least one traumatic event. Teens who have experienced trauma may have feelings of fear, confusion, and helplessness.  

Challenges in everyday life may occur due to traumatic events, but treatment is available to help reduce trauma-related problems. Trauma-informed care is a treatment that considers traumatic histories and focuses on building trust and safety. Trauma-informed care uses techniques designed to reduce trauma symptoms. 

At Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness, we offer trauma-informed care that can help adolescents work through trauma. We help support adolescents and their families as they begin to heal from their trauma.

Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a term used to describe a wide range of intense and negative experiences. While it is often used to refer to physical injuries, trauma can also refer to emotional or psychological injuries. These can be caused by a single event, such as a car accident or natural disaster. Trauma can also be caused by ongoing experiences, such as child abuse or exposure to violence. 

Trauma can have a profound effect on mental and emotional health. The effects can be particularly hard on adolescents because the teenage years are typically a time of significant physical and psychological change. Trauma can disrupt this process of maturing. 

Teens who have experienced trauma may feel isolated, confused, and helpless. Struggles with trusting others and coping with powerful emotions may occur as a result of a traumatic experience. In addition, problems with relationships, school, and work may occur.

Types of Trauma in Adolescents

Adolescence is a time of rapid change and development. The teenage years can be a period of great excitement and discovery. However, it can also be a time of confusion and vulnerability. Unfortunately, adolescents are often exposed to traumatic events that leave them scared, alone, and overwhelmed. 

Four main types of trauma can occur during adolescence: 

  • Acute trauma
  • Chronic trauma
  • Complex trauma
  • Neglect
Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program
Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is typically caused by a single event. Examples may include the death of a friend, a natural disaster, or a car accident. The young person may feel shocked and frightened after the event and have difficulty sleeping or eating. 

Avoidance of people or activities that serve as a reminder of the traumatic event may occur. With time and support, recovering from acute trauma is likely.

Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program

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Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma refers to repeated exposure to traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse. This type of trauma can have a lasting impact on an adolescent’s mental and physical health. They may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. They may also experience problems in relationships and at school.

Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program
Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is the type of trauma that occurs due to repeated exposure to distressing events. This can include sexual or physical abuse, witnessing violence, or growing up in a war zone. Complex trauma often leads to long-term mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression in teens.


Neglect is another form of trauma that can occur in adolescence. Unlike complex trauma, which is typically the result of intentional harm, neglect results from an ongoing lack of care. Neglectful parents may fail to provide their children with basic needs such as food, shelter, or clothing. Caretakers may also fail to provide emotional support, leading to feelings of isolation and abandonment.

Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program
Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program

Trauma-Informed Care

Adolescents who have experienced trauma often have difficulty trusting others, managing emotions, and functioning daily. As a result, extra support may be needed to heal from traumatic experiences. Trauma-informed care in Massachusetts focuses on providing this support safely and respectfully. This can involve everything from ensuring that staff is trained in trauma-sensitive practices to creating a safe environment. By collaborating with teens and involving them in decision-making, TIC empowers them to take control of their lives. Teens also learn how to build trusting relationships. This approach can help teens recover from trauma and develop the skills needed to lead healthy, successful lives.
Adolescent Trauma Treatment Program
Treatment for Trauma in Adolescents

There are effective treatments for trauma survivors that can help reduce symptoms that present as a result of trauma. These include individual therapy, group therapy, and/or family therapy. Each adolescent can respond differently to trauma, so it is essential to tailor the treatment to their individual needs.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy that focuses on changing thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. CBT can be an effective treatment for trauma in adolescents. 

CBT used for trauma in adolescents usually involves different steps:


The first step in CBT is to help adolescents identify their thoughts and beliefs about the trauma. This is done through individual or group therapy sessions. Once the thoughts and beliefs have been identified, the therapist will help the adolescent challenge and change these thoughts. They’ll do this by helping the adolescent see the situation from different perspectives and to reframe their thinking.


The next step is to help adolescents to change their behavior. This is done through exposure therapy, which involves gradually exposing adolescents to situations that trigger their trauma symptoms.


The final step is to help adolescents maintain their new thoughts and behaviors. This is done through continuing therapy sessions and by providing support and resources for when they are triggered.


Medication is another treatment option available for adolescents who have experienced trauma. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating trauma. However, medication can help manage some symptoms associated with PTSD and other disorders. 

Anti-anxiety medications can help reduce feelings of anxiety and panic. While antidepressant medication can help improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. A customized treatment plan can be created to include medications when needed. 

Trauma-Informed Care in Massachusetts

Experiences with trauma can be debilitating during adolescence and lead to mental health disorders. Treatment for trauma can include therapy and trauma-informed care to ensure feelings of safety and comfort. With treatment, adolescents can reduce mental health disorder symptoms from traumatic experiences. 

If your teen is struggling with trauma, trauma-informed care and therapy are available at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness. Reach out to our team today to get answers to any questions you may have and learn more about what we treat and our outpatient services.

Clinically Reviewed by:

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Melanie Carbonneau is the Clinical Director at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness and is a licensed counselor and certified music therapist with a Ph.D. from Lesley University. She leads MCAW with a focus on holistic care, emphasizing the importance of family and community involvement in the healing process.