Treating the Traumatized Child: A Step-by-Step Family Systems Approach by Scott P. Sells and Ellen Souder


Ellen and I began writing this book eight years ago after research with trauma counselors in 14 different states. This book complements ACES Science 101. It illustrates how the impact of the entire traumatized family (not just the child) causes adverse childhood experiences. In short, we have to treat the entire family that is traumatized, not just the child.

As a result, this book was written to address three current gaps in trauma-informed treatment: 

#1: The Traumatized Child and Family

Individually focused trauma-informed therapy models abound. This means that traumatized children are treated in individual therapy with limited to no involvement of the family, extended family, or community.

As a result, we wrote this book, to provide counselors with step-by-step tools to treat not just the child but their entire traumatized family and community. A core missing piece we believe in the recent school shooting is the treatment of PTSD in the teenager within the context of the entire family. Currently, our society is blaming the shootings on things like gun control instead of treating the entire family.

Additionally, from this book at, we created a website or virtual hub with articles and resources to help professionals and organizations become family trauma experts.

#2: The “Now What?” Question

The book answers the “Now What?” question that traumatized children and families keep asking us as counselors. In other words, after the traumatic event is discussed, both children and families want concrete tools to move beyond the trauma and healing in the here and now. Parents often ask me:

“Dr. Sells, it helped to talk about our child’s wounds and ours. But NOW WHAT? What do we do in the here and now to heal these wounds? In fact, the more we talk about it, the worse we feel. We want tools to move forward instead of getting stuck in our past.”

In Response to this Challenge, we created a book that provides handouts and what we call “now what?” wound or trauma playbooks to show you how to get your traumatized families unstuck and moving forward to heal the child’s trauma in the here and now. Download Sample Playbooks

#3:  Detailed Step-by-Step Tools

We found in our research that frontline counselors like theory up to a point. But after the theory, counselors want “mini-steps” or detailed step-by-step procedures with a plethora of case examples. This is especially true when it comes to navigating the complexities of treating traumatized children and their families.

If these gaps fit an area of need that you currently have in treating childhood trauma, please review a sample chapter and read the book. Please let me know what you think or join our Book Club to review chapters with other counselors and myself once a month over WebEx. 

A Sample Amazon Book Review

Dr. John Wells

5.0 out of 5 stars  This book is an excellent toolbox to have at your side

January 25, 2018

This book is an excellent toolbox to have at your side when working with traumatized adolescents and their families. It can be difficult to address adolescent acting out behavior while working with trauma. This book shows how to weave between these issues. This book gives step by step guidance in addressing both delinquency and trauma through depictions of therapeutic moments. What I found truly unique about this book is treating "family trauma." This book will show therapist how to empower families to work together to heal trauma in a natural and intuitive way. I think this book is a must-read for any therapist working with adolescents and families.

Scott P. Sells, PhD, MSW, LCSW, LMFT, is the author of three best-selling books, Treating the Tough Adolescent: A Family-Based, Step-by-Step Guide (1998), Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager: 7 Steps to Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love (2001), and Treating the Traumatized Child: A Step-by Step Family Systems Approach (2017).

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