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March 2018Vol. 19, No. 2What Is Complex Trauma? A Resource Guide for Youth and Those Who Care About Them

Many times, children and youth may have difficulty expressing how they feel or are affected by the negative things happening in their lives. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network developed a guide specifically for youth who have experienced complex trauma to help them get a better understanding of what it is and how it effects them. Complex trauma, or trauma that combines two or more forms of trauma exposure, such as sexual, physical, or emotional abuse; neglect; or domestic violence, among others, and its effects can be difficult for a child to understand or voice to adults. Clinicians, caregivers, and other adults can use this guide to help start and direct a conversation with youth about what complex trauma is, how it can impact them, and what coping strategies youth can use.

The resource guide is divided into the following sections:

  • What is complex trauma?
  • How complex trauma can affect youth
  • How youth can cope
  • Ways youth can make things better
  • Where youth can find more information about complex trauma

This resource guide uses graphics and tables with examples of some possible thoughts youth may encounter and coping strategies they may be using and the reasons behind them. The guide also includes several activities youth can complete that can help them work through their feelings, explore how they believe complex trauma has affected them, reflect on how they coped with trauma in the past, and brainstorm actionable ways to help themselves recover and thrive.

The resource guide, What Is Complex Trauma? A Resource Guide for Youth and Those Who Care About Them, can be found at