Childhood Trauma Case Study

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Assessment of cognitions in young children with trauma is perhaps the most important prerequisite to effective REBT treatment. Young children are often unconscious of their own irrational beliefs and evaluations; moreover, they may have trouble reporting how they feel to the clinician (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). This is often the case with children with traumatic experiences. In these instances, the clinician would have to use directive questioning and probing to reveal core irrationalities (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). One such technique is the hypothesis-testing form of questioning (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). For example, “When people get angry, they often think to themselves that people really should act respectfully and fairly.…show more content…
The following case by Diguiseppe and Bernard (2006) illustrates the use of one of REBT’s main treatment methods with children—empirical disputing (and problem solving) of faulty inferences. Sara, a 9-year-old girl, was particularly depressed because of the infrequency of her seeing her father. Her parents had been divorced for six years and her mother and father continued to argue. Sara’s older siblings had a great deal of animosity towards their father and he reacted by avoiding them; this led to Sara feeling that her father could not really care for her if he did not love or care about her mother or siblings. Empirical disputing of this inference revealed the irrationality in Sara’s beliefs about her father. Sara’s sadness was first caused by her inference that the way her father felt about the rest of the family was indicative of how he felt about her as well; it was further influenced by her evaluation that if her father didn’t care about her, it would be catastrophic (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). Challenging the latter idea—it would not be terrible if she had an uncaring parent—led to silence and withdrawal; however, this new possibility motivated Sara to collect data to verify her inferences (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). This REBT strategy proved appropriate…show more content…
The disadvantages of using this REBT approach is that a serious problem can arise when the child gets upset with the behavior of important adult figures in their life (as they most often do), and this gets misconstrued by the therapist (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). It could lead to more harm than good for the child if the therapist decides to go the disputational route, ignoring the fact that the data supports the child’s perspective and the elegant solution is a better alternative to treatment (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). Many therapists tend to do this because they believe that a child’s realization of their parents being uncaring, unfair, or disturbed may cause more emotional distress than they can handle (Diguiseppe & Bernard, 2006). Let’s suppose a child is confronted with such an unfortunate reality of an unloving parent. The therapist decides to pursue an empirical strategy and tries to relabel the parent’s behavior as caring, and convince the child that the parent really does care. This approach would no longer be appropriate because of the distorted perception of parental love and care that would be presented to the child if the method were to be successful. In such situations, it is important for therapists to critically
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