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Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a psychosocial treatment model designed to treat post-traumatic stress and related emotional and behavioral problems in children and adolescents ages 3 to 18 years. Initially developed to address problems associated with childhood sexual abuse, TF-CBT has been modified and tested with children who have experienced a wide array of traumas, including domestic violence, traumatic loss, war, commercial sexual exploitation, and the often multiple and complex traumas experienced by children who are placed in foster care. TF-CBT is appropriate for use with children exposed to trauma whose parents or caregivers did not participate in the abuse.

The program integrates cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and family therapy principles as well as trauma interventions. It is designed to be delivered by trained and certified TF-CBT therapists. The therapy approach is highly collaborative and the therapist works with both the child and the child’s non-offending parents or caregivers to identify and attain common goals. Initially, therapists provide parallel individual sessions with children and their parents or primary caregivers; joint parent–child sessions then become increasingly incorporated over the course of treatment. Each TF-CBT session is aimed at building the therapeutic relationship while also providing education and skills development in a safe environment, in which the child is able to address and process traumatic memories. Joint parent–child sessions are aimed at helping parents and children practice the skills learned during therapy and enabling the children to share their stories of trauma, while also nurturing more effective parent–child communication about the abuse and related issues.


What is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)?

  • TF-CBT is a conjoint child and parent psychotherapy approach for children and adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events.
  • It is a components-based treatment model that incorporates trauma-sensitive interventions with cognitive behavioral, family, and humanistic principles and techniques.
  • Children and parents learn new skills to help process thoughts and feelings related to traumatic life events; manage and resolve distressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related traumatic life events; and enhance safety, growth, parenting skills, and family communication.

Who is TF-CBT for?

  • TF-CBT has proved successful with children and adolescents (ages 3 to 18) who have significant emotional problems (e.g., symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, fear, anxiety, or depression) related to traumatic life events.
  • This treatment can be used with children and adolescents who have experienced a single trauma or multiple traumas in their life.
  • Children or adolescents experiencing traumatic grief can also benefit from this treatment.
  • TF-CBT can be used with children and adolescents residing in many types of settings, including parental homes, foster care, kinship care, group homes, or residential programs.

How long does TF-CBT typically last?

  • TF-CBT is designed to be a relatively short-term treatment, typically lasting 12 to 16 sessions.  Over 80 percent of traumatized children who receive TF-CBT experience significant improvement after 12 to 16 weeks of treatment.
  • Treatment may be provided for longer periods depending upon individual child and family needs.
  • TF-CBT can be used as part of a larger treatment plan for children with complex difficulties.