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Trauma-focused CBT for youth with complex trauma

Judith A. Cohen, Anthony P. Mannarino, Matthew Kliethermes & Laura A. Murray

Child Abuse & Neglect

Volume 36, Issue 6, June 2012, Pages 528–541

 

Abstract

Objectives

Many youth develop complex trauma, which includes regulation problems in the domains of affect, attachment, behavior, biology, cognition, and perception. Therapists often request strategies for using evidence-based treatments (EBTs) for this population. This article describes practical strategies for applying Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for youth with complex trauma.

 

Methods

TF-CBT treatment phases are described and modifications of timing, proportionality and application are described for youth with complex trauma. Practical applications include (a) dedicating proportionally more of the model to the TF-CBT coping skills phase; (b) implementing the TF-CBT Safety component early and often as needed throughout treatment; (c) titrating gradual exposure more slowly as needed by individual youth; (d) incorporating unifying trauma themes throughout treatment; and (e) when indicated, extending the TF-CBT treatment consolidation and closure phase to include traumatic grief components and to generalize ongoing safety and trust.

 

Results

Recent data from youth with complex trauma support the use of the above TF-CBT strategies to successfully treat these youth.

 

Conclusion

The above practical strategies can be incorporated into TF-CBT to effectively treat youth with complex trauma.

 

Practice implications

Practical strategies include providing a longer coping skills phase which incorporates safety and appropriate gradual exposure; including relevant unifying themes; and allowing for an adequate treatment closure phase to enhance ongoing trust and safety. Through these strategies therapists can successfully apply TF-CBT for youth with complex trauma.

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