Research

TF-CBT is the most well-researched therapy model for treating symptoms of childhood trauma. To date, there are 22 studies showing that TF-CBT is effective in improving child functioning after trauma. Below are important highlights from the research on TF-CBT:

  • TF-CBT reduces symptoms of childhood posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, studies have shown that treatment results in improvements in depression, behavior problems, feelings of shame and guilt, and unhealthy trauma-related beliefs.
  • TF-CBT is appropriate for treating reactions to ALL types of childhood trauma. TF-CBT was initially designed to treat children who had been sexually abused. Research has found TF-CBT to be helpful in treating diverse trauma types, including single-incident traumas (such as accidents or natural disasters) and chronic traumatic experiences (such as child abuse and neglect or witnessing violence).
  • TF-CBT is appropriate for children with multiple traumatic experiences. Children in most TF-CBT research studies have commonly experienced multiple traumatic events and improved significantly from TF-CBT treatment. In fact, it is most commonly children with multiple traumas who are referred for and receive treatment.
  • TF-CBT is effectively used with a variety of family and living situations. Many TF-CBT studies have included children in out-of-home care (e.g., foster placements). Research has also shown TF-CBT can be effectively used in residential treatment facilities. TF-CBT can include biological parents, foster parents, residential support staff, or other trusted adults, with the goal of aiding the child in practicing skills outside of sessions.
  • TF-CBT can successfully reduce acting out behaviors while treating PTSD. Children with trauma histories may present with mild to severe behavior problems, including aggressive behavior toward self or others, sexual behavior problems, and defiance. Caregiver involvement in treatment is key when targeting behavior problems. TF-CBT providers collaborate with caregivers to develop a plan to reduce problem behaviors, and prioritize reduction of potentially harmful behaviors in the treatment plan.