Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based treatment approach shown to help children, adolescents, and their parents (or other caregivers) overcome trauma-related difficulties. Early trauma can lead to guilt, anger, feelings of powerlessness, self-harm, acting out, depression, and anxiety.
The treatment is particularly sensitive to the unique problems of youth with post-traumatic stress and mood disorders resulting from sexual abuse, as well as from physical abuse, violence, or grief. Because the client is usually a child, TF-CBT often brings non-offending parents or other caregivers into treatment and incorporates principles of family therapy.
If a child or adolescent also exhibits serious behavioral, substance abuse, or suicidal ideation, other forms of treatment, such as dialectical behavior therapy, may be more appropriate as an initial intervention and can be followed up with a trauma-sensitive approach. TF-CBT is a short-term intervention that generally lasts anywhere from 12 to 25 sessions and can take place in an outpatient mental health clinic. Cognitive behavioral techniques are used to help modify distorted or unhelpful thinking and negative reactions and behaviors.
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy helps children address distorted or upsetting beliefs and attributions and learn skills to help them cope with ordinary life stressors. It also helps parents who were not abusive to cope effectively with their own emotional distress and develop skills that support their children.