Beacon House offers a specialist trauma and attachment service for children, adolescents and parents/carers who have survived trauma, loss and disruption.

Our trauma therapists come with extensive experience of working sensitively and effectively with individuals who have been traumatised through their life experiences, and we draw on a range of creative and evidence-based interventions.

There are two forms of trauma that can affect us:

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Complex Developmental Trauma

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a certain collection of symptoms that often develop following a one-off incident, such as a road traffic accident, a natural disaster or a sexual assault. PTSD can have a huge impact on an individual’s life and relationships. The symptoms of PTSD can feel very strange and can often make children feel as if they have gone ‘crazy’; but in fact, these are very normal reactions to abnormal events. PTSD can be treated very effectively using EMDR and other trauma focussed therapies.

When a child goes through a one-off traumatic incident there is a possibility that they will develop the symptoms of PTSD. Children under the age of six can also develop post-traumatic stress but it can look a little different to older children. Younger children are likely to show disturbed or repetitive play where there are themes of fear, anxiety and distress. Younger children are also likely to show anxiety at separating from their parents/carers, and other signs of distress such as bed wetting, disturbed sleep and challenging behaviour. Young children may not be able to put words to their feelings, but they can suffer with a post-traumatic stress reaction just as older children can.

PTSD develops because the traumatic event becomes ‘frozen in time’ for the child and they act and feel as if the threat is still ongoing. Therapy aims to help the child to process the trauma memory and re-learn that they are safe.

In our experience, once the core symptoms of PTSD have been addressed, the child and family often experience something known as ‘post traumatic growth’. This is where the family feel even stronger, closer and wiser than had the traumatic event never happened.

How does Beacon House help PTSD?

We will first carry out a gentle and sensitive therapeutic needs assessment of how the trauma has impacted the child, which may include PTSD symptoms but may also include other difficulties impacting on home life and school life.

Our assessment will take into account the child’s views and the parent’s observations and, if helpful we can involve the school in building up a holistic picture of how the child is managing. Sometimes it can be helpful to use psychological measures to get a fuller picture of how the child is feeling and the coping strategies they have developed.

This usually takes place over one or two appointments. Following this, we will share with the parent and child our impressions of how the trauma is affecting them and family life, and what therapy plan is likely to be most effective.

We will then offer an evidence-based therapy to directly process the traumatic memories.  This might include EMDR, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or other approaches, For very young children, play is also brought in to the therapy. We often take what is known as a ‘systemic’ approach to the therapy, which means that we support the parents and the school to understand and help the child, as well as working directly with the child. We often also work ‘dyadically’ which means that the parent and the child are in the therapy room together, with the parent working alongside the therapist to support the child to feel safe and to enable the trauma processing.

Once the main trauma symptoms have reduced, we may bring in other therapeutic approaches to help the child and family develop a new story for themselves about how the trauma came, how they recovered and how they will take their experience positively into the future.

What is Developmental Trauma?

Complex Developmental Trauma (sometimes known as Complex PTSD) often develops after the child has experienced repeated, relational trauma such as sexual, emotional and physical abuse; neglect during childhood, or repeated loss and abandonment. Complex PTSD in childhood can also emerge when a child is removed as a young infant from their birth mother, and looked after by foster carers, special guardians or is adopted.

It is important to know that Developmental Trauma can also arise from early childhood experiences which, on the face of it, appear good enough. However, beneath the surface is an experience for the baby or child where their basic emotional needs were not met, or where there was a profound absence of attunement, empathy and emotional validation from the parent to the child, leaving a deep sense of emptiness within the child.

Children can experience Developmental Trauma when things happened that shouldn’t have happened, or indeed when things didn’t happen when they should have happened. 

Developmental Trauma can also arise from experiences which are not relational, for example, in babies who have sensitive, dedicated parents but who undergo years of invasive medical procedures and life threatening illness.

When babies and children are faced with parenting that is either ‘too much’ and/or ‘too little’ time and time again; they naturally adapt to this threat to their sense of safety. In other words, they develop a wide range of behaviours and emotional survival strategies which have two simultaneous goals:


  • To reduce the likelihood of physical, emotional or sexual harm and
  • To bring key adults close enough to give comfort and protection, but not too close that it feels threatening


It is these very survival behaviours (otherwise known as ‘adaptations to danger’) that are often understandably described as ‘symptoms’ or ‘challenging behaviours’, and which leave parents and teachers feeling lost in a push-pull dance with the child. We like to re-frame these challenging behaviours and celebrate them as ways the child learnt to survive life’s lessons – and thank goodness they did!

We invite all adults who are caring for, or working with, complexly traumatised children to shift from an individual perspective (“the problem is in the child and the child needs to change”) to a relational perspective (“the child is relating to me as if the danger is still here, and I need to adapt my behaviours to create extra safety so that the child can over time, learn that she or he is now safe”).

Click here for an image which helps to understand Developmental Trauma in children.

Click here for our comprehensive article on Developmental Trauma.

Take a look at our two animations about how to understand and support children who have suffered early trauma too:

Here – Window of Tolerance

Here – The Repair of Early Trauma, a Bottom Up Approach

You will find a rich range of resources about Developmental Trauma on our resources page.

How does Beacon House help Developmental Trauma?

Our team has an innovative and evidence-based approach to working with children and families who have experienced early trauma, separation and attachment disruption. Traumatised children are often driven by their primitive survival instincts, even when they are not in danger any more. They are frequently in fight/flight/freeze/collapse survival modes which we see through their ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ behaviours.

The feelings of fear and shame stored in the body often have no words. For therapy to be helpful, we must offer something which focusses on calming the primitive brain and the body first, before we invite the child to be reflective and to use sophisticated conversation in therapy. If we jump straight to the ‘thinking brain’ (which many standard treatments do), then well-meaning professionals are likely to be at best unhelpful, and at worst shame-inducing for the child.

We offer an integrative service where a variety of therapies are available to children and families, because no one single therapy is right for all traumatised children.

Our therapeutic plans are informed by the following values:

  1. The therapy plan must be informed by a trauma-informed assessment with the child and his/her family, to embed the collaborative approach.
  2. Therapy is long-term, often spanning a number of years but with breaks in between therapeutic chapters. The child is not ‘cured’, but instead learns, over time and with the attunement of their key adults, to love and let love in.
  3. There is no one ‘right’ therapy. Different therapies are helpful at different times in the child’s life. The key is that therapy must be relational, and in the right sequence, starting with calming the child’s primitive fear response and building up, to enable them to reflect, think, learn and make choices.
  4. Therapy might involve direct work with the child, but it almost always also includes working with the parents too. By building up the parents, we build up the child.
  5. Therapy is only one small part of the child’s world. For therapy to create change, the child needs to experience safety and compassion within their family, school and their wider community.
  6. By building a therapeutic web around the child (filled with sensitive, attuned, informed adults), the child has a much greater chance of thriving.

What is involved in a Developmental Trauma Assessment?

Before we embark on a therapeutic plan for a chronically traumatised child, we always offer an extended Therapeutic Needs Assessment.

This involves:

  • A meeting the parent(s) only
  • A meeting with the child only (if they feel safe enough to be alone with a therapist)
  • A meeting with the child and parent(s) together
  • A conversation with other professionals supporting the child (e.g. school and social worker)
  • Administration of a range of questionnaires and psychological measures
  • Reading of all background reports and social care chronology, if available
  • Writing a Therapeutic Needs Letter, which is a comprehensive report
  • Feedback meeting and intervention planning

What are the assessment goals?

Our assessment goals vary, depending on the needs of the child and family. Generally, we work to the following aims throughout the assessment process:

  • To understand how the child’s experiences have impacted his/her development
  • To understand the nature and extent of the child’s Developmental Trauma, and whether there are also additional mental health or developmental difficulties
  • To understand the current home context and how this inter-relates with the child’s needs and behaviours
  • To understand the school context, and how this inter-relates with the child’s needs and behaviours
  • To understand the parents’ own emotional well-being, resilience, strengths, resources and support needs
  • To identify the child’s strengths, talents and resources
  • To support the child and the parents to identify their therapeutic goals
  • To identify what therapeutic intervention both the child and the parents are ready for, and able to tolerate
  • To make a series of recommendations about what interventions will help to create change, and in what order they should be offered in.
  • To make recommendations for parents, carers, schools and social workers which will build a therapeutic web around the child, and enhance the likelihood that therapy will be impactful.

What happens after the assessment?

After the feedback and therapy planning meeting, the child and parents are invited to begin the recommended therapy. Therapeutic goals vary greatly between families; and they also change over time. Common therapeutic goals include:

  • Stabilising the home environment for families at risk of breakdown
  • Creating better emotional stability for the child – so that they can regulate their senses, emotions and behaviour better
  • Promoting secure attachment between the parents/carers and the child
  • Improving the emotional resilience and sensitivity in the parent/carer
  • Improving communication and connection within the whole family
  • Increasing the confidence of parents to respond to very challenging behaviours in their child
  • Treating discrete mental health symptoms such as low mood, anxiety and post-traumatic stress
  • Stabilising school placements and enhancing the child’s potential to learn
  • Building family resilience for the future


Here are the therapies available at Beacon House to heal and repair Developmental Trauma:

How is my child’s progress reviewed?

Therapeutic progress is something which is continually reviewed throughout the intervention. During the assessment, the therapist will make a plan with you about how many sessions should take place before a more formal ‘pause and review’ appointment is offered.

Alongside this, we have three main ways that we evaluate the therapeutic progress your child makes:

  1. During your child’s assessment, you will be asked to fill out a number of questionnaires, which will be re-administered at the end of each piece of work.
  2. At the start of each piece of work, you and your child will be asked to identify three therapeutic goals, and scale them to show us how well you feel you are achieving those goals. We will review your goals and your scaling at the end of therapy.
  3. At the end therapy, you and your child will be asked to tell us how satisfied you feel with your experience of coming to Beacon House, and whether you feel the difficulties you have been working on have improved.


What do other parents/carers and children say about Beacon House?

We understand that taking that step towards asking for help takes courage. We also understand that it can feel like a step into the unknown. Take a browse through our Testimonials and Young Person’s page, where you can read what other parents and young people have said about their journey through therapy here at Beacon House. If your child is adopted or care for under a special guardianship, take a look at our services funded by the Adoption Support Fund here.

We also provide freely available resources so that knowledge about the repair of trauma and adversity is in the hands of those who need it. Please feel free to use our resources in your home or work setting, click here to view.

Getting in Touch

If you would like to get in touch with us for an information conversation about whether your child may benefit from our services, please get in touch with us on 01444 413 939 or