Do Most At-Risk Youth Have a Trauma History?

Lakeside deals with 5800 students per year. Very often I wonder about their backgrounds, their relationships, their traumatic experiences, their adverse childhood experiences and so much more.  What is it that brings adolescents to a place where they cannot exist in our regular communities and families?

Recently I was in a secure youth rehabilitation center. This was a program where youth were placed by a judge for significant crimes. Typically, there was some kind of criminal behavior that merited residential placement with high security and intense controls. There are many facilities like this across the country where students are placed because there is nowhere else that could meet their needs while staying secure.

As I spoke to some of the staff, I was interested in the background of the youth that were being admitted. I inquisitively asked about their backgrounds and some of the factors that lead to their placement. I asked about mental health, violence, environments, family, etc. The head psychologist only answered with one theme. She said to me, “All of these kids have a trauma history!” As I listened to more and more about their population, I concluded that these individuals not only had a trauma history but a complex trauma history. That means the trauma was layered, repetitive and probably was manifested in multiple ways.

In this particular facility it was clear that what the staff was dealing with was complex trauma. Yet they utilized traditional mental health treatments and methods or other forms of cognitive therapy. What we know is that the first consideration about trauma is how to regulate the brain so that the cognitive issues can be pursued. Regulation is first before relationships which can then lead to cognitive capability where most perceptions can be listened to and possibly treated.

How many of our treatment facilities recognize the connection to trauma that is usually prevalent and complex? How many provide trauma-informed care as a first recourse in treatment? How many facilities that care for trauma-impacted youth understand the neurology of the traumatized brain and know how to provide a sensory protocol to help regulate their clients? These are all vital questions that need to be addressed as we design programs that care for our youth who have experienced trauma.

Lakeside Global Institute trains professionals to be able to deal with those who are trauma impacted. We are privileged to work with approximately 6,000 professionals per year to provide a variety of trauma trainings that assist professionals to become trauma aware and trauma competent. This is so important for our systems of care and for those who are treated in those systems. We hope that our work will help many programs in the future, providing a trauma-responsive treatment plan to those within their care.

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