TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment that helps children and adolescents recover after a trauma. It is a structured, short-term therapy that works with the child/adolescent (ages 3-18) and caregiver, to improve traumatic symptoms in around 12-25 sessions. The therapeutic interventions are designed to help children, adolescents and their caregivers overcome the impact of traumatic events. It can be used with any type of trauma-such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic viloence, community violence, unexpected death of a loved one, natural disasters and war. It even addresses complex traumas which involve more than one specific trauma.
What can I expect from TF-CBT treatment?
TF-CBT involves individual sessions for the child or adolescent, individual sessions for the parents and conjoint sessions between the parent and child/adolescent. During the child/adolescent sessions, they will learn about trauma, how to identify feelings and manage them, how to relax and tolerate trauma reminders, how to identify negative thoughts, how to replace the negative thoughts with more helpful thoughts, how to resolve problems and learn safety skills.
An important aspect of TF-CBT is to provide the client with opportunities to discuss details of the trauma in a supportive and nurturing environment. One way that this is done is through a trauma narrative in which the client retells their traumatic experiences through writing or pictures in a therapeutic way. This allows the client’s brain to process traumatic memories and gain more helpful thoughts about the trauma. As time passes, the traumatic reminders begin to become less intense and more infrequent.
During the caregiver sessions, the therapist will teach the caregiver how to support the client in treatment as well as how to manage the symptoms of trauma. The therapist will provide the caregiver with a lot of resources and skills necessary to help their child cope. The caregiver will also have an opportunity to discuss their own feelings about their child’s traumatic experience and if needed be able to process their own trauma and how that impacts their child. The therapist will also prepare the caregiver on how to support their child when they share their trauma narrative in a conjoint session.
How effective is TF-CBT?
TF-CBT research has shown that nearly 80% of children experience a remission in symptoms after only 12 sessions. This amount of success in such a short amount of time really provides a lot of hope for the clients and their families.
What are the signs and symptoms of trauma in children/adolescents?
- Inability or unwillingness to recall or talk about trauma details
- Avoiding people, places or things that remind them of what happened
- Difficulty stopping thoughts about the trauma
- Startling easily
- Emotional and physical numbing
- Recalling physical sensations that occurred during trauma
- Difficulty staying still or fidgeting
- Sleeping routine is disturbed (not wanting to sleep alone, nightmares, waking up in the middle of the night)
- Rapid changes in mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self esteem
- Inability to trust others
- Drug use
- Desire to hurt oneself or others
Children's Institute, Inc - TF-CBT handout