Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Plain Language Summary: Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a therapy for children or adolescents who have experienced a traumatic or other distressing event. TF-CBT is based on CBT and has not yet been studied with populations who have developmental disabilities. TF-CBT has three stages: stabilization and skill building, trauma narration and processing, and review of what has been learned and closure of treatment.

As with any therapy relationship, you’ll spend some time getting to know your therapist and making sure they’re a good fit for you. You are always welcome to bring a trusted friend or family member if you prefer.

During these stages the therapist will work with the youth on relaxation techniques, emotion recognition, and identifying negative thoughts. They also work on something called “psychoeducation” which involves educating children and their parents about trauma and the effects it can have. The therapist and child will also work together to write a “trauma story”, this is a retelling of the upsetting event as the child experienced it. This allows the child to come to an understanding of the event. The therapist also helps the child to process the event in a healthy, safe setting. Through gradually exposing the child to memories of the event, their anxiety and stress will reduce. Finally, the therapist works with the child and their family on maintaining gains made in therapy and to help them feel safe after the therapy ends.

To learn more, read the MHDD fact sheet on Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).

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