Trauma-Focused CBT for Traumatic Grief in Military Children
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- Cohen, J.A. & Mannarino, A.P. J Contemp Psychother (2011) 41: 219. doi:10.1007/s10879-011-9178-0
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Although military children are typically as resilient as the general child population, the ongoing conflict has exposed military children to unusual stressors such as repeated deployment, severe injury, or the death of a parent or sibling. U.S. forces have experienced more than 5,600 casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with growing numbers of suicides among Service members. These deaths have affected thousands of military children. Most bereaved military children experience adaptive grief characterized by deep sadness, longing for the deceased person, and being comforted by positive memories of the deceased. A smaller number of military children develop childhood traumatic grief, characterized by trauma symptoms that interfere with adaptive grieving. Children with traumatic grief get “stuck” on the traumatic aspects of the death such as picturing the imagined or real details of the death; imagining the pain their loved one experienced in the moments before dying; wishing for revenge; and becoming angry at those who do not understand or share the child’s thoughts and feelings about the death. These children avoid reminders of the deceased person. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for children with trauma symptoms including those with traumatic grief. TF-CBT may be particularly suitable for military families. This article describes the clinical application of TF-CBT for traumatic grief in military children.