A specific type of talk therapy dispensed in the developing world to orphans and other vulnerable children who experienced trauma such as sexual and domestic abuse showed dramatic results, despite being administered by workers with little education, new research shows.
The findings, from a group of researchers led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggest that young people from poor nations can benefit from mental health treatment, even when health professionals do not provide it. Untreated childhood trauma, the researchers say, is linked to skills deficits and unhealthy decision-making as adults as well as long-term negative health outcomes and lower economic productivity.
A report on the study appears in the June 29 issue of JAMA Pediatrics.
“We found that children from very distressed backgrounds can really be helped by a prescribed set of sessions with trained lay workers who otherwise have absolutely no mental health education and barely a high school education,” says study leader Dr. Laura K. Murray, an associate scientist in the Bloomberg School’s department of mental health. “This study demonstrates that evidence-based treatments can be done in low-resource countries with good outcomes. We need to make these interventions available to children so they aren’t set up for significant difficulties as adults.”