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TF-CBT is a very structured, short-term (4-6 months) therapy
TF-CBT is appropriate for most kids who have had one or more traumas and are having symptoms of post-traumatic stress (as long as child is stable – not suicidal, not abusing drugs/alcohol, etc.)
Parents are the most important people in the child’s life and are very involved in their child’s therapy; if parent is not able to participate (i.e. foster care), a stable caretaker who can support the child can participate
Therapist meets with the child each week and then with the parents to teach them ways to help their child at home
This type of therapy has been proven in research studies to be very effective in helping traumatized kids get better in only a few months
Research suggests that PTSD symptoms need to be addressed as early as possible to prevent long-term difficulties
The therapy includes:
Talking about the trauma will be done in a gradual, supportive manner (so that the child will be able to tolerate the discomfort associated with the discussion) and will not occur until the child has learned some skills to cope with the discomfort.
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Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) was developed by Drs. Anthony Mannarino, Judith Cohen and Esther Deblinger. TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment that has been evaluated and refined during the past 25 years to help children and adolescents recover after trauma. Currently, 14 randomized controlled trials have been conducted in the U.S., Europe and Africa, comparing TF-CBT to other active treatment conditions. All of these studies have documented that TF-CBT was superior for improving children’s trauma symptoms and responses. TF-CBT is a structured, short-term treatment model that effectively improves a range of trauma-related outcomes in 8-25 sessions with the child/adolescent and caregiver. Although TF-CBT is highly effective at improving youth post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and diagnosis, a PTSD diagnosis is not required in order to receive this treatment. TF-CBT also effectively addresses many other trauma impacts, including affective (e.g., depressive, anxiety), cognitive and behavioral problems, as well as improving the participating parent’s or caregiver’s personal distress about the child’s traumatic experience, effective parenting skills, and supportive interactions with the child.
The federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has recognized TF-CBT as a Model Program due to the extensive outcome data from randomized controlled trials that support its effectiveness in improving a variety of problems. While TF-CBT was originally developed to address the needs of children who experienced sexual abuse, over the past 15 years it has been used and studied for many other populations of traumatized youth. Research now documents that TF-CBT is effective for diverse, multiple and complex trauma experiences, for youth of different developmental levels, and across different cultures.