Trauma is defined as any type of distressing event or experience that can have an impact on a young person’s ability to cope and function. The Boston Children’s Hospital conducted a study that found sixty-one percent of young people (age 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and nineteen percent had experienced three or more traumatic events in their lifetime. Experiencing trauma can interfere with a teenager’s cognitive and social development. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a highly effective therapeutic approach specifically designed to address the impact of trauma on mental health, particularly in children and teenagers. TF-CBT aims to help children, adolescents, and their parents (or other caregivers) overcome trauma-related difficulties.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Basics
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, developed by Drs. Judith Cohen, Esther Deblinger, and Anthony Mannarino, is an evidence-based treatment approach intended to reduce emotional and behavioral symptoms resulting from trauma exposure. TF-CBT is a components-based treatment model that relies on cognitive-behavioral principles and exposure techniques for children who have experienced trauma and their nonoffending caregivers. TF-CBT is structured as a conjoint parent-child treatment modality, which involves spending session time with children individually, caregivers individually, and with children and caregivers together (conjoint sessions). The components of TF-CBT can be summarized by the acronym PRACTICE:
- Psychoeducation and Parenting
- Affective expression and modulation
- Cognitive coping
- Trauma narrative development and processing
- In vivo exposure mastery
- Conjoint parent-child sessions
- Enhancing safety and future development
Children and caregivers typically move through the components in parallel with caregivers serving as role models and supports for skills being acquired. TF-CBT emphasizes a gradual exposure component, where the teenager’s trauma experience is discussed over the course of treatment. Research has shown the more exposure is disseminated, is directly linked to reduced trauma symptoms, and improved mental health. The purpose of TF-CBT is to provide an adolescent trauma survivor with the much-needed support in cultivating effective coping strategies and learning applicable skills to process emotions and memories tied to traumatic experiences, and ultimately create a healthier and more adaptive meaning of the experience that took place in his or her life.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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