What is Trauma-Focused CBT?

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is typically used in response to the traumatic experiences of children and adolescents. Trauma-Focused CBT is a therapy approach that is sensitive to the needs of younger patients who might have gone through something they can’t fully process on their own. 

While Trauma-Focused CBT was originally used to help children who had been victims of sexual abuse, it has expanded over the years to help with a variety of other traumatic situations, including almost any other type of trauma or abuse. 

Let’s take a closer look at TF-CBT, the process, and how it might help your child and family if they have experienced a traumatic event or some kind of abuse.

How Does TF-CBT Work?

In a perfect world, children would never experience any abuse or trauma. Unfortunately, it happens more often than we’d like to think. What’s worse, perhaps, is that young children can’t always fully process or understand what they’ve gone through and they are often left alone to process their difficult memories and feelings of a traumatic event or events.

That can lead to overwhelming mental health concerns as they get older. Childhood trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, and low self-esteem throughout life. It can also make forming trusting relationships difficult, even as adults. 

Trauma-Focused CBT covers several core components that can help a child learn about trauma while improving their symptoms and supporting healing. 

Because guilt is often a response to trauma, one of the first goals of TF-CBT is to use psychoeducation to inform a child what the normal reactions are to traumatic experiences. This helps them let go of guilt so they can move forward with treatment. 

Other core components of Trauma-Focused CBT include learning coping skills like mindfulness, relaxation training, deep breathing, exploring trauma narratives, and creating exposures at a comfortable, safe, and gradual pace. It also supports cognitive processing that can help with emotional regulation and any difficult thoughts related to the traumatic experience. 

TF-CBT can also be helpful for caregivers and families. If you’re a parent, this therapy can give you the skills and resources necessary to reconnect with your child and foster a trusting, healthy relationship that allows you to provide comfort and safety for them.

What Should You Expect?

The effects of trauma, even in children, can be devastating and long-lasting. Trauma-Focused CBT isn’t a magical overnight fix.

However, it is a short-term therapy. In many cases, it can take place in a familiar and comfortable setting, including a school or even in the home. Children typically respond positively to the therapy treatment in anywhere from 8-25 sessions. 

With that in mind, the goal of TF-CBT is to help children learn how to challenge their negative, intrusive thoughts that stem from trauma or abuse. Distorted thinking is a big problem associated with trauma that even adults struggle with. When children who have experienced trauma learn how to modify those distorted thoughts from a young age, they’re more likely to be able to cope in healthy ways as adults. 

Is TF-CBT Right for Your Child or Family?

No one wants to think about their child experiencing abuse or trauma. But, if it happens, the best thing you can do for them is reach out for professional help. 

Trauma-Focused CBT is so effective because it’s designed specifically for children and families. It’s not a therapy that’s meant to last for years. Rather, it will help your child learn to process what they’ve gone through. Then, they can fight back against negative emotions — a skill they can use for a lifetime. 

TF-CBT can also help you, as a parent or caregiver, learn how to be the best possible support system for your child. It will help to re-establish a strong, healthy, and safe attachment within your family. So, your child doesn’t have to live in fear while they should be enjoying the comfort of home. 

If you want to learn more about Trauma-Focused CBT and how I can help your child, feel free to contact me for a free 20-minute phone consultation to see if I am a good fit. 

Be well,

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