How is school-based mental health educationally relevant? Exploring the academic outcomes of a CBT intervention for trauma in schools
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The psychological and behavioral effects of trauma are well documented, as are its significant disruptions to developmental trajectories over the lifespan. Besides providing access to children, schools offer familiar and supportive settings in which to conduct trauma therapy. The proposed study uses a randomized controlled design to examine the impact of participation in a school-based treatment program for youth experiencing posttraumatic stress (CBITS). Participants include a sample of 160 sixth graders from a low-income background who have experienced trauma and report elevated levels of posttraumatic stress. In addition to symptom indicators, measures of student engagement and classroom behavior will be collected prior to and following the intervention. Post-score differences between intervention and control groups will be analyzed for each outcome with adjustment for baseline differences. It is expected that students in the intervention group will exhibit lower levels of PTSD, more positive classroom behavior, and higher perceived engagement in learning. These predictions align with research documenting the relationship between academic and socio-emotional functioning. Well-developed school-based programs have the potential to address macro-level disparities in care and to improve academic functioning for students experiencing posttraumatic stress. Finally, addressing trauma in the schools is a wise investment that will head off future social service costs.