This approach to therapy of maltreated children is being developed by Dr. Bruce Perry, a leading expert in early childhood trauma. Dr. Perry and the staff at Child Trauma Academy in Texas have created a “developmentally sensitive, neurobiologically informed approach to clinical work.” This approach is based on what Dr. Perry knows about brain development, which includes these brain basics:
Brains develop from the “lower” parts that mediate simple functions like breathing, heart rate and body temperature to the “higher” parts that mediate complex functions like language and abstract thinking.
The majority of brain organization takes place in the first four years of life.
Because most of the brain’s core neural networks and primary associations develop at such a young age, early developmental trauma and neglect have a disproportionate influence on the brain’s organization and functioning.
In addition to early childhood trauma, children exposed to intrauterine insults (drug exposure or even maternal stress) alters their brain chemistry and brain structure.
The NMT approach starts with a core assessment, which includes a review of the child’s relational history, an assessment of the child’s current functioning and specific recommendations to develop a “map” of a unique sequence of developmentally appropriate interventions that can help the child get back on a more normal brain development tract. This approach often involves patterned, repetitive somatosensory activities that help develop the child’s capacity for self-regulation before moving on to therapies that will help with more relational-related problems and then developmentally further into more cognitive-behavioral based approaches.
Dr. Perry stresses that NMT is not a specific therapeutic technique or intervention but an approach to structuring the application of interventions in a way that will truly help meet the needs of the child. The Child Trauma Academy is currently training clinicians to be NMT certified and use this biologically informed, developmentally sensitive approach to heal maltreated children.
What types of interventions are often used in conjunction with the NMT approach?
- Therapeutic massage
- Equine or canine interactions
- Art therapy
- Drama therapy
The NMT approach focuses on the need for consistent, repetitive sensory input and movement therapies, as well as the need for a stable relational environment with positive, healthy adults providing a safe, healing environment. The research and theoretical approach of NMT may be helpful in explaining why many are finding success with the Neuroscience interventions (such as neurofeedback, sensory integration and neurodevelopmental reorganization), which incorporate repetitive movement, sensory input, breathing and other techniques found useful for helping children’s brains grow and develop.
Child Trauma Academy
The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics