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Trauma Systems Therapy, pioneered by Dr. Glenn Saxe, gains support from new research

Children who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event are at risk of dysfunction in every area of their lives, from relationships with family and peers, to academic performance, to just being able to go about their daily routines and the business of being a kid.

Trauma Systems Therapy (TST), a treatment approach pioneered by Glenn Saxe, M.D., Chair of the NYU Child Study Center, addresses PTSD in kids with a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach. TST goes beyond a doctor and a child in an office and takes into account a child's support system and home environment in treating PTSD.

Dr. Saxe is co-author of a new study on TST that set out to observe the effects of treatment over time and analyze cost savings on PTSD-related hospitalization before versus after treatment. The results of the study were published in the journal "Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy."

The study found that over a 15-month period children and families receiving TST improved across all the key areas observed, including the child's emotional regulation, stability of the child's environment, and the child's ability to function. These improvements resulted in a need for less intensive care over time.

One of the primary differences between TST and other forms of treatment is TST's focus on a child's social environment, especially the home. This study suggests that improvements in overall emotional and psychological health after 15 months of treatment actually stem from improvements in the child's environment. The finding supports one of the founding premises of TST: If the child's main social environments, typically home and school, are not conducive to the child's recovery and continued health—due to neglect, abuse, or severe bullying, to name a few examples—individual therapy will do little to improve their symptoms in the long term. Thus while participation in individual therapy is important, addressing a child's home and support systems may be the single most vital ingredient in reducing PTSD symptoms.

The study showed that hospitalizations related to PTSD decreased 36 percent following treatment, and the duration of hospital stays decreased by 23 percent. The study implied that more costly, intensive treatment at the outset of PTSD symptoms, particularly to address stability in a child's environment, can produce cost reductions in the long term by reducing the need for hospitalization, the most expensive level of care. Medicaid costs related to hospital stays were reduced by half after TST as compared with the year prior to treatment.

Read more about the study in "Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy" and see what the blog Good Therapy had to say about the results.