ARC Therapy Worksheet

What is the theory behind this ARC Therapy Worksheet?

Attachment, Regulation and Competency is a type of intervention or framework that was developed for children and adolescents who have been through complex trauma in their lives. Complex trauma refers to severely disturbing traumatic events that had been repeatedly going on for a long time.The therapy focuses on building resilience in the youth by strengthening these three domains: Attachment, Self-regulation and Competency. 

How will the worksheet help?

The worksheet provides important information to caregivers of children seeking ARC therapy regarding trauma triggers and how they can identify their child’s trigger response. It will help them be aware of the signs and symptoms of their child’s danger response. 

How to use the worksheet?

This worksheet is a psychoeducation handout for the child’s caregiver to help them understand trauma triggers and how they can identify their child’s danger response. Instruct caregivers to go through the handout and clarify anything they don’t understand. 

ARC Therapy Worksheet

  • The Body’s Alarm System is our body’s evolutionary response to danger signals in the environment
  • When our brain senses danger it responds in the following three ways 
  • FIGHT: you stay and prepare yourself to fight against the danger
  • FLIGHT: you run away and leave the situation
  • FREEZE: you are unable to leave or fight and remain stuck in your position. Usually when you realise you do not have the strength or the resources to fight or take flight. 
  • Whether the threat is real or perceived, the brain is wired to immediately set off alarm bells . For most of us as soon as it happens, and the threat is false, we return back to our normal state and continue whatever we were doing. However for people with trauma any triggers whether real or perceived keep activating the body’s alarm system, making it overactive. With time, the body becomes so sensitive that even minor cues alert the alarm system, sending the individual into a negative spiral of thoughts and actions. 
  • Our brain recognizes and memorises triggers, any cues that were present at the time of a dangerous or traumatic experience so that it can prepare to alert the alarm system as soon as it encounters it again.These triggers can be subtle or overt. They are also dependent on what the child perceived to be a dangerous cue at the time of the traumatic event

Some common triggers for children can include:

  • A sudden unpredictable change in their routine or environment
  • Rejection
  • Loud noises or other sensory stimulation
  • Loss of Control
  • The response to a trigger is always meant to keep the individual safe from the real or perceived threat. You have to be aware of your child’s danger response. Observe the child’s reactions and be alert when that reaction is exaggerated based on the situation they are in. There is a high chance something has triggered their alarm system. Look for emotional cues and extreme body responses to stressors. 
  • Here’s what your child dangers response may look like:
‘Hyperactivity, verbal aggression, oppositional behaviour, limit testing, physical aggression,“bouncing off the walls”’’‘Withdrawal, escaping, running away, self-isolation, avoidance’‘Stilling, watchfulness, looking dazed, daydreaming, forgetfulness, shutting down emotionally’


Margaret E. B. & Kristine M. K. (2010). Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents: How to Foster Resilience Through Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency. The Guilford Press

You can download this worksheet here.

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