Paper: Psychotherapy for traumatized children and adolescents during the war in Ukraine

Paper details

Paper authors Olena Bortnikova
In panel on What are the best practices for implementing MHPSS interventions in smaller, under the radar crisis?
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During the war, children are exposed to two types of traumatic events to varying degrees, such as: unexpected traumatic situations and long-term adverse living conditions, which lead to the emergence of unproductive strategies for living with psychotraumas and affect the development, learning and communication of children. Exposure to war, living in conflict zones, flight and forced migration can create or increase the risk of wide-ranging consequences of direct and indirect risks to physical and mental health, especially for children and their caregivers, which can deprive or limit children of their freedom development and access to basic resources. Traumatic experience can cause: specific fears, dependent behavior, prolonged crying, lack of interest in the environment and psychosomatic symptoms, aggressive behavior; anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociative disorders (voluntary social isolation, depersonalization, derealization, reluctance to talk, Catalan syndrome), behavioral disorders (in particular, aggression, antisocial and criminal behavior, propensity for violence), as well as alcohol and drug abuse means; problems with the provision of basic resources (such as shelter, water, food, education, health care, etc.); disruption of important family relationships (due to loss, separation or forced or voluntary displacement); stigmatization and discrimination (have a significant impact on identity); a pessimistic view of life (constant sense of loss and grief, inability to imagine a positive future) and the normalization of violence. To date, the most effective for Ukrainian realities is trauma-focused CBT, which helps in a structured and relatively quick (12-20 sessions) treatment of the consequences of a traumatic experience and allows taking into account the age characteristics of children. This method is proven to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. TF-CBT is also effective in addressing many other consequences of trauma, including affective (depression, anxiety), cognitive, and behavioral problems, and improves personal experiences of trauma.