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Emotion regulation intervention for complex developmental trauma: working with highly traumatized youth

Pur, İpek Güzide
The first aim of this study was to explore the emotion regulation component of complex trauma in boys who live in residential care and have lived and/or worked on the street. The second aim of this study was to propose an “emotion regulation intervention model” for boys who have lived and/or worked on the street, and boys who are under risk of living and/or working on the street. As the issue is deeply sensitive, and there is lacking literature on this issue, grounded theory approach was taken for research. An emotion regulation group work was conducted with 12 boys living in residential care, aging between 14 and 19. The group, other than the boys, consisted of the therapist, the co-therapist, and two group facilitators who were psychology seniors. The inductive thematic analysis was performed on the in depth interviews prior to the study, observation reports, session transcripts, group supervision reports, and the products of exercises, utilizing a qualitative data analysis software, MAXQDA. Results showed that the boys experienced complex trauma as a result of traumatic attachment with the primary caregiver in early childhood. The boys’ inability to trust and triggered beliefs in terms of lack of worthiness in relationships; emotion regulation problems on the individual level; and uncertainty beliefs and hopelessness about the system were evaluated as complex trauma symptoms. In terms of emotion regulation problems, the boys used especially projective identification, regression, and dissociation defense mechanisms. In terms of behavior problems, substance abuse, hyperactivity and acting out behaviors are striking. The positive effects of the emotion regulation group work and its place in the current child protection system are discussed.