SDCC provides counseling for children and their families impacted by a traumatic event. SDCC accepts VCB funding and pro bono/sliding scale fee services for qualified applicants.

 What is trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world.

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.

An event will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if:

  • – It happened unexpectedly.
  • – You were unprepared for it.
  • – You felt powerless to prevent it.
  • – It happened repeatedly.
  • – Someone was intentionally cruel.
  • – It happened in childhood.

Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time events, such as a horrible accident, a natural disaster, or a violent attack. Trauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighborhood or struggling with cancer.


How do I know if my child was exposed to a traumatic event?

A significant number of children in American society are exposed to traumatic life events. A traumatic event is one that threatens injury, death, or the physical integrity of self or others and also causes horror, terror, or helplessness at the time it occurs. Traumatic events include sexual abuse, domestic violence, community and school violence, medical trauma, motor vehicle accidents, acts of terrorism, war experience, natural and human-made disasters, suicides, and other traumatic losses.


Recognizing symptoms of childhood trauma:

If your child has been exposed to a traumatic experience, such as domestic violence or abuse, your child may need some help in coping with the trauma.  The first step is recognizing the signs of trauma. Frequently, children become sad, worried, angry, frightened, or withdrawn.  Although there are many possible responses and no child will respond the same way, other signs of trauma can include:

  • Trouble sleeping or falling asleep, nightmares or unwanted memories of the event
  • Problems concentrating or paying attention
  • Difficulty getting along with others, less social
  • Change in appetite
  • Behaving younger than they are, bedwetting, clingy, thumb-sucking
  • Anger or emotional outbursts
  • Avoidance of people, places or things
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Problems at school
  • Bullying
  • Not communicating openly


Why is it important to get help?

Children who have experienced an initial traumatic event before 11 years old are 3 times more likely to develop psychological symptoms than people who experience their first trauma as an adult. Traumatic experiences can damage a child if left unspoken about and untreated. Helping a child through a traumatic experience is important for building a child’s resilience (ability to cope), so that they learn how to face what has happened, grieve over it, then put their life back together again and move forward. Help for children who have experience a traumatic event should begin as soon as possible after the event has occurred. Therapy is important to identify how the child is coping with the trauma, to understand that their silence doesn’t necessarily mean that they have not been affected and to provide support, reassurance and healing.

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