Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychic trauma in children-Treatment, Cognitive therapy, Attachment behavior in children, Neurobiology, Trauma, Childhood, Attachment, Cognitive-behavioral therapy, Somatic, Sensory, Sensorimotor


Childhood abuse and neglect have been shown to have a devastating impact on an individual's social, emotional, and physical development. This study was undertaken in order to determine the best treatment approach for survivors of childhood trauma. The author investigated the impact of traumatic stress on the brain, and reviewed the psychoanalytic, child development, and neurobiological literature on the importance of the attachment relationship for healthy development. Various perspectives on the diagnosis of childhood trauma were explored, including models that centralize childhood trauma as the cause of much of the spectrum of mental illness we see today. The author researched the theoretical underpinnings of both cognitive-behavioral and attachment-based therapies, before analyzing representative interventions from each school of thought in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. The author found that each approach has much to offer, but that an attachment-based, neurobiologically-informed perspective is especially relevant when working with survivors of trauma, who may experience dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system, the same system influenced by the attachment relationship. Moreover, because sensory processes stimulate brain areas that mediate the traumatic stress response, interventions that focus on sensory aspects of experience may be more effective for survivors of childhood trauma than cognitive-behavioral techniques alone.




iv, 111 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 96-111)