Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy, or TF-CBT, can make a tremendous difference in your recovery. This is an evidence-based treatment model designed to help people overcome the negativity of traumatic experiences. This method is effective after multiple or single traumatic events. The idea behind TF-CBT is to help traumatized individuals fully process their trauma. There is also a significant focus on how to cope with the emotional stress of trauma.

Therapists trained in this trauma-focused therapy strategy often help people experiencing emotional trauma to resolve their issues. This therapeutic strategy is targeted toward children and adolescents but can also help adults. It generally takes a short-term approach. This means it can usually conclude after around 16 sessions.

What Can TF-CBT Treat?

TF-CBT mainly focuses on treating posttraumatic stress. The goal is to help survivors address and resolve the distress from traumatic events. Therapists work with them to decrease negative emotional responses that developed as a result of sexual or physical abuse or other traumatic circumstances. Children and adolescents who experience these traumas can use TF-CBT methods to get back to a healthy way of functioning.

Childhood abuse, domestic violence, and neglect often lead to symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Survivors, ages 3-18, of physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence exposure may benefit from this treatment. The same is true for children who have experienced a significant loss, like the death of a loved one. The safe parent or caregiver often takes part in the therapy with the child.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress

There are several ways that posttraumatic stress can manifest. Symptoms often include intrusive thoughts, avoidance, or negative changes in mood and behaviors. These manifestations can include:

  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind them of the traumatic event
  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic occurrence
  • Negative thoughts about themselves or others
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Memory issues like not remembering important aspects of the trauma
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Lack of interest in activities that once brought joy
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting nightmares or dreams about the event
  • Severe emotional distress to anything that reminds them of the traumatic event

Who Can Provide TF-CBT?

Therapists with intimate knowledge and intensive child development training are well suited to provide TF-CBT. Specific training is required for therapists to use a trauma-focused approach to therapy. Mental health professionals who have gotten this training often seek supervisors and consultants who also have experience with this model.

Professionals must have a master’s degree or higher to participate in the training. Afterward, these professionals can seek more specific training on this therapy method. After their training and cooperative client work using TF-CBT, they’re generally ready to approach the practice independently. Finding a compassionate, trauma-informed therapist is often invaluable for resolving posttraumatic stress.

When to Seek Help for Post Traumatic Stress

In addition, it’s important to seek help for posttraumatic stress as soon as symptoms are present. Recognizing this in young children can be difficult. However, the sooner you recognize the symptoms and seek treatment, the better the chances are of recovery. Speak with a general practitioner or arrange a consultation with a therapist if you’re unsure of the symptoms or what to look for in your child.

If you sense that you or your child are experiencing posttraumatic stress, please know that help is available. These feelings are very real and very valid. You can seek help together or find a trusted provider to treat your child. We are here to help. Please read more about trauma treatment and contact us soon.

Finally, if your child or adolescent has expressed suicidal thoughts, persistent thoughts of death, or thoughts or actions of self-harm, it’s vital to seek help immediately.