Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an intervention for children from birth through age 5 who have experienced at least one traumatic event (e.g., maltreatment, the sudden or traumatic death of someone close, a serious accident, sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence) and, as a result, are experiencing behavior, attachment, and/or mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Attachment & Trauma Network, the primary goal of CPP is to support and strengthen the relationship between a child and his or her parent (or caregiver) as a vehicle for restoring the child’s sense of safety, attachment, and appropriate effect and improving the child’s cognitive, behavioral, and social functioning.
The type of trauma experienced and the child’s age or developmental status determine the structure of CPP sessions. For example, with infants, the child is present, but treatment focuses on helping the parent to understand how the child’s and parent’s experiences may affect the child’s functioning and development. With older children, including toddlers, the child is a more active participant in the treatment, and treatment often includes play as a vehicle for facilitating communication between the child and parent. When the parent has a history of trauma that interferes with his or her response to the child, the therapist (a master’s- or doctoral-level psychologist, a master’s-level social worker or counselor, or a supervised trainee) helps the parent understand how this history can affect perceptions of and interactions with the child and helps the parent interact with the child in new, developmentally appropriate ways. In studies reviewed for this summary, mother-child dyads participated in weekly sessions for approximately one year with therapists who principally used a CPP treatment manual (Don’t Hit My Mommy!).