Alternative Therapies for Teen PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological illness that affects teens and adults in a variety of significant ways. It is a mental illness experienced by someone who has lived through a traumatic event, and as a result, has symptoms of anxiety.  There are many types of life-threatening experiences that a teen might go through which could result in PTSD. These are:

  • Rape
  • Death in the family
  • Witnessing a crime
  • Death or suicide of a close friend
  • Domestic violence
  • Natural disaster
  • Witnessing violence
  • Chronic bullying
  • Repeated abandonment
  • Physical or sexual abuse

If a teen has gone through any of the above difficult experiences or any catastrophic event that threatened death or serious injury, he or she might be vulnerable to developing PTSD. Symptoms of this illness may include flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An adolescent might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely.

Typically, treatment methods for teen PTSD might begin with a psychiatric evaluation to determine an adolescent’s specific psychological needs. If symptoms are severe, treatment could also include hospitalization and medication. However, psychotherapy should be implemented to begin a safe exploration of the trauma and associated thoughts and feelings. A common form of psychotherapy used in treating anxiety disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which examines the specific trauma-related thoughts, images, and feelings.

Two alternative therapies that might accompany traditional psychotherapy include Equine Therapy and Craniosacral Therapy:

Equine Therapy is a medical field that is recognized in most major countries. It is a form of therapy that uses horses as well as an equine environment to promote physical, emotional, occupational, and psychological well being in patients. Equine therapy is often used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, and Depression. It can also be used to treat traumatic brain injuries, behavioral issues, and addiction.

Equine therapy is a form of mental health treatment that involves more than just having patients ride a horse. It could include touching a horse, placing a halter on a horse, or leading a horse to a designated area. The presence of the horse and the interaction with the patient can have a significant impact on healing and treatment. This kind of therapy can build self-confidence, communication skills, trust, impulse control, boundary setting, and adopting new perspectives on life.

Craniosacral Therapy is a modality that uses the craniosacral system – the soft tissues and fluid that protects, nourishes, and cleanses the brain and spinal cord – as a means for assessing disease in the body. A therapist trained in this modality knows how to work with the craniosacral system to release tension in the body and improve functioning of the central nervous system. Because of its ability to release emotionally held trauma that was stored in the body, this form of therapy has been used to treat a vast number of veterans with great success. Although it’s an alternative form of therapy, it has been used to treat teen PTSD for over 20 years and continues to be a healing method.

There are many forms of alternative therapies that are becoming more and more popular because of their healing capabilities as well as the holistic philosophies behind them. Some not listed here include therapies that use expressive arts, drama, music, dance, poetry, and yoga. Still other forms include meditation, acupuncture, and neurofeedback.

Robert Stolorow, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, described society’s vulnerability towards trauma:

“I describe our era as an Age of Trauma because the tranquilizing illusions of our everyday world seem in our time to be severely threatened from all sides – by global diminution of natural resources, by global warming, by global nuclear proliferation, by global terrorism, and by global economic collapse. These are forms of collective trauma in that they threaten to obliterate the basic framework with which we as members of our particular society have made sense out of our existence. They create a vague state of anxiety – an existential anxiety, about our own existence and the existence of all those whom we love.

To address this vague state of anxiety, the traditional forms of medical treatment have been very successful and have saved a vast number of lives. However, alternative forms of treatment are becoming more and more popular because their abilities to prevent illness and treat the entire body. If you’re a caregiver or parent of a teen, you might consider these treatment methods for teen PTSD and other physical and psychological ailments.”