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Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children Affected by Sexual Abuse or Trauma

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2012
17 pages
After an overview of the features of trauma- focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), this paper describes its key components, followed by a discussion of the target population, the effectiveness of TF-CBT, the characteristics of an effective therapist, and the role for child welfare agency administrators in the use of this therapy.
TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment approach proven to help children, adolescents, and their caregivers overcome trauma-related difficulties. It is designed to reduce negative emotional and behavioral responses stemming from child sexual abuse, domestic violence, traumatic loss, and other traumatic events. The treatment focuses on distorted beliefs and attributions related to the abuse and provides a supportive environment in which children are encouraged to talk about their traumatic experience. TF-CBT can also help parents who did not perpetrate the abuse to cope effectively with their emotional distress and develop skills that support their children. TF-CBT is a short-term treatment that typically involves 12-18 sessions of 50 to 90 minutes, depending on treatment needs. The treatment involves individual sessions with the child and parent/caregiver separately and jointly. The treatment aims to develop psycho-education and parenting skills, relaxation techniques, affective expression and regulation, cognitive coping and processing, and the enhancement of personal safety and future growth. TF-CBT is appropriate for children and adolescents with a history of sexual abuse and/or exposure to trauma. The effectiveness of TF-CBT is supported by outcome studies and recognized on inventories of model and promising treatment programs. In addition to appropriate training and thorough knowledge of the TF-CBT model, it is important to select a treatment provider who is sensitive to the needs of the child, caregiver, and family. 42 references and a listing of training and consultation resources