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02 February 2024

When kids face traumatic experiences, timely, targeted psychological support can help avert long-term mental health problems that interfere with their development and require more involved treatment.

This is the premise behind Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI), an evidence-based approach to treatment that the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), is working to make more widely available to kids who have experienced abuse and their caregivers. NCA is offering clinicians affiliated with Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) across the United States training in CFTSI and helping raise awareness among caregivers of its potential benefits.

At 5 to 8 sessions in length, CFTSI is brief relative to other treatments, increasing the likelihood that the whole course will be completed. In a landscape where clinicians are stretched thin and kids’ mental health needs are going unmet, widespread adoption of CFTSI could allow more children to access effective care, reduce waitlists for meeting with a mental health professional, and help kids transition sooner to longer-term care if necessary.

With CFTSI training now provided multiple times per year via the new NCA Institute for Better Mental Health Outcomes, SNF’s support helps NCA to make this training more accessible and affordable for clinicians across the country. The institute’s recent launch marks the start of NCA’s efforts to reach one thousand clinicians with CFTSI training by the end of 2027, clinicians who are able to immediately offer this promising treatment to kids and caregivers who need it.

CFTSI is implemented soon after a traumatic event or disclosure of abuse as a “family-strengthening approach” designed to increase understanding and communication and furnish coping strategies. As NCA explains it in a video for caregivers, the evidence-based treatment helps kids “turn the volume down on their symptoms” and “helps both the child and their caregiver understand and find words to describe the reactions the child is having. It also helps them learn new ways of decreasing these reactions.”

CFTSI has been shown through rigorous studies to significantly reduce symptoms of traumatic stress for both kids and their caregivers. After taking part, 98% of caregivers say they would recommend CFTSI to others.

Widening access to quality mental health resources, especially for young people, is a core component of SNF’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), through which the Foundation gave support to NCA.