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Transforming Trauma in Children and Adolescents


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A new somatics and attachment theory treatment protocol for therapists working with children and adolescents who suffer from complex trauma and neglect, using movement and sensation to target the neurological structures that support emotional and behavioral regulation.

About the Author

ELIZABETH WARNER, PSYD, is the lead developer of the Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART) complex trauma intervention model and Director of the SMART program, part of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. She has worked with children, adolescents and their families of diverse backgrounds in outpatient private practice, residential treatment, schools, and psychiatric inpatient settings, and lectures and trains therapists throughout the US as well as in Canada and Hong Kong. HEATHER FINN, LICSW, is Clinical Director and a practicing psychotherapist at the Trauma Center. She is the lead author of a case study demonstrating the utilization of the SMART model in the Journal of Child Adolescent Therapy. ANNE WESTCOTT is a senior faculty member of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and co-developer of the Trauma Center's SMART program. She is the coauthor of the Hidden Strengths Series, a set of children's books inspired by Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, designed to present children's distress in realistic yet digestible ways. ALEXANDRA COOK, PHD, is the Associate Director of the Trauma Center, where she has worked for over 20 years. She is the co-author of With the Phoenix Rising- Lessons from Ten Resilient Women who Overcame the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse.


"SMART is a ground-breaking new approach to treating traumatized children, based on the combination of keen clinical observation, sensory integration, and a deep understanding of the latest advances in the neuroscience of trauma. A focused, embodied, and engaged sense of self depends on learning to integrate sensory, muscular, emotional, and cognitive input, which is profoundly damaged by early trauma and disrupted attachment. With simple and affordable equipment, SMART creates a sensory space that helps children activate their sensory and physical needs and expressions, which in turn helps them to befriend their internal sensations and manage their actions and interactions. SMART fosters this core foundation for becoming a functioning human being, and thus it can help children to access and activate their rational brains and become full partners in connection, play, learning, and language."
-Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD, founder and medical director, emeritus at the Trauma Center, president of the Trauma Research Foundation, professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, and author of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma

"Incredible! SMART is a revolutionary approach that exquisitely weaves together the authors' profound clinical wisdom and observations with the science and theory of the leading thinkers and scientists in our field. A must-read for mental health professionals, this book will help move us forward, updating the common, but narrow lens focused only on behavioral and top-down approaches. Keeping regulation and relationships at the heart of the approach, combining what we now know about the embodied brain and the far-too-often neglected sensorimotor system, this book will expand the perspective on and efficacy of the practice of many professionals, and it will support integration for so many families impacted by trauma."
-Tina Payne Bryson, LCSW, PhD, best-selling coauthor of The Whole-Brain Child and The Power of Showing Up and founder of TheCenterforConnection.org

"Housed within the framework of the tenets of Sensory Integration, the authors have developed a triune intervention model that threads together the aspects of somatic regulation, trauma processing, and attachment-building in order to widen the window of tolerance for the dysregulated behavioral, emotional, and relational challenges faced by children and adolescents with a history of developmental trauma. The Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART) intervention model addresses the most fundamental mechanisms of traumatized children in a bottom-up, nonverbal language treatment option that not only prompts kids to ask-Do I get to play in there!-while peeking into his or her therapist's office, but more fundamentally, helps them make meaning of their traumatic experiences through the combined therapeutic actions of movement and sensory processes. Thus, while SMART focuses on the body it nonetheless changes a child's state of consciousness. This book is a clinical must-read for therapists who treat traumatized children or adolescents."
-Marilyn R. Davillier LCSW, MSSA and Ed Tronick, PhD, founders of the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship, University of Massachusetts Boston

"I am so grateful for the commitment of the authors to provide clinicians with an additional, accessible treatment model to help the children in their care heal from the devastating impact of childhood trauma. People-especially children-experience overwhelming sensations and feelings that they are unable to put into words. SMART's emphasis on helping children take effective action using their whole body to better understand and regulate these sensations and feelings is central to healing."
-Steve Gross, MSW, chief playmaker and founder of The Life is Good Playmakers

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