Giving Compass' Take:

• RAND researchers, in collaboration with Los Angeles Unified School District and UCLA, developed the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), which helps mental health professionals implement interventions that help children deal with trauma. 

• The program's results were positive for increasing student academic achievement and decreasing PTSD symptoms. How can this model be deployed in other school districts? 

• Here are nine tips for talking to kids about trauma. 

More than half of all children in the United States are exposed to trauma, either as witnesses or victims. Traumatic events can include:

  • violence at home or in the community
  • life-threatening accidents, such as car crashes
  • natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods
  • terrorist events, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

The emotional impact may be profound. Children exposed to trauma face heightened risks of developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress or depression. They are also more likely to experience behavioral problems and declines in school performance. Schools offer a promising site for helping these children because school-based treatment can reduce barriers to seeking mental health care.

To help children cope with the effects of trauma, RAND researchers in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and UCLA developed the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools, or CBITS, an intervention program designed for mental health professionals to deliver in a school setting.

CBITS is part of a rich body of RAND work in which researchers have developed and implemented evidence-based public health interventions, evaluated their effectiveness, and used the results to refine the interventions and adapt them for other settings. To assess the effectiveness of CBITS, a team of RAND researchers and colleagues from LAUSD and UCLA conducted a randomized, controlled evaluation in school settings.

Key Findings:

  • CBITS significantly reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression among students exposed to trauma.
  • Students who received CBITS early performed better in reading and math.
  • The program produced consistent results and was well accepted by students, parents, and teachers.

Because CBITS can be delivered in group settings, it has expanded children's access to mental health care. A single social worker can screen up to 1,500 students per year and deliver care to more than 200 students per year.

Read the full article about helping children with trauma by Lisa H. Jaycox at RAND.