Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-m8qmq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-16T16:19:45.323Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Treating Chronically Traumatised Children with the Sleeping Dogs Method: Don't Let Sleeping Dogs Lie!

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 June 2017

Arianne Struik*
Institute for Chronically Traumatized Children, Perth, Australia, PO box 394, Scarborough, 6019, WA, Australia
address for correspondence: Arianne Struik, Director Institute for Chronically Traumatized Children, Perth, Australia, PO box 394, Scarborough, 6019, WA, Australia. E-mail:


Many traumatised children in Australia do not receive the type of trauma-focused treatment endorsed by international guidelines and, as such, they suffer from the consequences of intergenerational trauma. Even when trauma-focused treatment is available, there is a group of children who are difficult to engage in treatment and do not want to talk about their traumatic memories. Clinicians are often reluctant to address the trauma, for fear of ‘waking up sleeping dogs’. All children deserve a chance to heal from trauma and I believe we, as a society, have a responsibility to provide children with appropriate services and treatment methods to help them achieve this. This article describes the Sleeping Dogs method, a three-phased trauma-focused treatment method, based on a collaborative use of interventions by therapists, child-protection workers, residential staff, school and the child's network. A Six Test Form is used to analyse the possible reasons why the child is unable to talk about his or her traumatic memories, for which interventions are planned. Case examples with children who can be difficult to engage in trauma-focused treatment are used to illustrate interventions. Clinical experiences show the Sleeping Dogs method has been successfully used internationally, as well as remote communities in Australia.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Barber, J. G., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2003). Placement stability and the psychosocial well-being of children in foster care. Research on Social Work Practice, 13 (4), 415431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barber, J. G., Delfabbro, P. H., & Cooper, L. L. (2001). The predictors of unsuccessful transition to foster care. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42 (6), 785790.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barfield, S., Dobson, C., Gaskill, R., & Perry, B. D. (2012). Neurosequential model of therapeutics in a therapeutic preschool: Implications for work with children with complex neuropsychiatric problems. International Journal of Play Therapy, 21 (1), 3044. doi:10.1037/a0025955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Booth, P. B., & Jernberg, A. M. (2010). Theraplay: Helping parents and children build better relationships through attachment-based play. San Francisco: Wiley.Google Scholar
Boris, N. W., & Zeanah, C. H. (2005). Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder of infancy and early childhood. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44 (11), 12061219. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000177056.41655.ce.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Browne, R. (2015). Report finds government could save $9 billion in healthcare costs by addressing childhood trauma. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Scholar
Cloitre, M., Stolbach, B. C., Herman, J. L., van der Kolk, B., Pynoos, R., Wang, J., & Petkova, E. (2009). A developmental approach to complex PTSD: Childhood and adult cumulative trauma as predictors of symptom complexity. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 22 (5), 399408. doi:10.1002/jts.2044419795402.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cohen, J. A., Bukstein, O., Walter, H., Benson, S. R., Chrisman, A., Farchione, T. R., . . . Medicus, J. (2010). Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 49 (4), 414430.Google ScholarPubMed
Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., & Deblinger, E. (2006). Treating trauma and traumatic grief in children and adolescents. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., & Staron, V. R. (2006). A pilot study of modified cognitive-behavioral therapy for childhood traumatic grief (CBT-CTG). Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 45 (12), 14651473. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000237705.43260.2c.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cooper, G., Hoffman, K., Powell, B., & Marvin, R. (2007). The circle of security intervention: Differential diagnosis and differential treatment. In Berlin, L. J., Ziv, Y., Amaya-Jackson, L., & Greenberg, M. T. T. (Eds.), Enhancing early attachments: Theory, research, intervention, and policy. Duke series in Child Development and Public Policy (pp. 127151). New York: The Guilford press.Google Scholar
D'Andrea, W., Ford, J., Stolbach, B., Spinazzola, J., & Van der Kolk, B. A. (2012). Understanding interpersonal trauma in children: Why we need a developmentally appropriate trauma diagnosis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82 (2), 187200. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01154.x22506521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Delfabbro, P. H., Barber, J. G., & Cooper, L. (2002). Children entering out-of-home care in South Australia: Baseline analyses for a 3-year longitudinal study. Children and Youth Services Review, 24 (12), 917932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Delfabbro, P. H., King, D., & Barber, J. (2010). Children in foster care-five years on. Children Australia, 35 (1), 2230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ehlers, A., Clark, D. M., Hackmann, A., McManus, F., & Fennell, M. (2005). Cognitive therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder: Development and evaluation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43 (4), 496503. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2004.03.006 15701354.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ehlers, A., Clark, D. M., Hackmann, A., McManus, F., Fennell, M., Herbert, C., & Mayou, R. A. (2003). A randomized controlled trial of cognitive therapy, a self-help booklet, and repeated assessments as early interventions for posttraumatic stress disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60 (10), 10241032. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.60.10.1024 14557148.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ehlers, A., Mayou, R. A., & Bryant, B. (2003). Cognitive predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder in children: Results of a prospective longitudinal study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41 (1), 110. doi:10.1016/S0005-7967%2801%2900126-7 12488116.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., . . . Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14 (4), 245258.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hughes, D. A., & Baylin, J. (2012). Brain-based parenting: The neuroscience of caregiving for healthy attachment. New York: WW Norton & Company.Google Scholar
Jonkman, C. S., Verlinden, E. F., Bolle, E. F., Boer, F., & Lindauer, R. J. (2013). Traumatic stress symptomatology after child maltreatment and single traumatic events: Different profiles. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26 (2), 225232.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kezelman, C., Hossack, N., Stavropoulos, P., & Burley, P. (2015). The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia. Retrieved from Scholar
Lieberman, A. F., & Van Horn, P. (2008). Psychotherapy with infants and young children: Repairing the effects of stress and trauma on early attachment. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Parker, S. (2011). Partnering for safety case consultation process: A process for consulting on child protection cases using the partnering for safety risk assessment and planning framework. Perth: SP Consultancy. Retrieved from Scholar
Perry, B. D. (2009). Examining child maltreatment through a neurodevelopmental lens: Clinical applications of the neurosequential model of therapeutics. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14 (4), 240255. doi:10.1080/15325020903004350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Perry, B. D., & Dobson, C. L. (2013). The neurosequential model of therapeutics. In Ford, J. D. & Courtois, C., (Eds.), Treating complex traumatic stress disorders in children and adolescents: Scientific foundations and therapeutic models. (pp. 249260). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Schore, A. N. (2001). The effects of early relational trauma on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22 (1–2), 201269.3.0.CO;2-9>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, F., & Forrest, M. S. (2001). EMDR: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. New York: The Guilford Press, US.Google Scholar
Solomon, R. M., & Shapiro, F. (2008). EMDR and the adaptive information processing model: Potential mechanisms of change. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2 (4), 315325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Struik, A. (2014). Treating chronically traumatized children: Don't let sleeping dogs lie! New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turnell, A., & Edwards, S. (1999). Signs of safety: A solution and safety oriented approach to child protection casework. New York, NY: W W Norton & Co.Google Scholar
Turnell, A., & Essex, S. (2006). Working with ‘denied’ child abuse. The resolutions approach. Berkshire: Open University Press.Google Scholar
World Health Organization. (2013). Guidelines for the management of conditions specifically related to stress. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
Zeanah, C. H., Chesher, T., & Boris, N. W. (2016). Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 55 (11), 9901003. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2016.08.004.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed