Assessing Trauma and Providing Treatment
Signs and symptoms of trauma can be hard to recognize, especially in adolescents who may already engage in unhealthy behaviors. Proper assessment of trauma is critical for providing adequate care and treatment. It is important to be observant when assessing adolescents in order to identify behaviors that may point to past trauma or on-going abuse and victimization. In many cases, youth do not feel safe enough to disclose exposure to trauma or victimization. Reasons for making disclosure difficult include:
Assessments specific to trauma can identify risk-behaviors and help to identify the most effective intervention and treatment goals. A trauma assessment involves collecting a thorough history of all trauma events the adolescent has experienced or been exposed to, along with using specific standardized clinical measures to identify types and severity of symptoms.1 Referrals should be made to an appropriate mental health service professional to provide needed in depth assessment and care for the adolescent.
A number of tools are available for assessing trauma. For a comprehensive list of trauma assessment and screening tools, visit the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Measures Review Database (http://www.NCTSN.org/measures). Please note that use of these tools requires training.2