There are several leading proven-effective trauma treatments for adults and kids. Each involves some way of having the client systematically face the memory, without becoming overwhelmed, so that the healing can occur. Here is a summary of selected treatments.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) involves having the client tell the story of the trauma memory in detail, along with thoughts and emotions, from beginning to end. And then tell it again, and again… The theory is that as avoidance of the memory is prevented, the client has a chance to learn that it can no longer hurt, and desensitization occurs. This is an effective, well-researched treatment, mainly for adults so far.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) involves having the client write down the trauma memory rather than speak it; the writing may provide some distance, making the procedure more tolerable.
Trauma Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT) is a treatment for children that involves having the child create a book of the trauma memory, in which each page of the book represents one significant part of the event. The drawing helps to hold the child’s interest, while going only a page at a time breaks down the memory into small parts, so that facing it is more tolerable. This method is well-researched, and the above link is to a free TF-CBT training program.
Structured Play Therapy is a structured, directive style of play therapy that guides the child to repeatedly go through the trauma memory, in symbolic form. This is not a manualized treatment approach like the others on this page, and the research supporting this approach is not as strong as for most of the others listed. Even so, it is a legitimate and potentially effective way of conducting “exposure” with a child.