Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based therapeutic intervention specifically designed to help children, adolescents, and their families overcome the negative effects of a traumatic experience. Developed by Drs. Anthony Mannarino, Judith Cohen, and Esther Deblinger, TF-CBT integrates the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy with trauma-sensitive approaches to address the unique needs of young trauma survivors.

Understanding Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

TF-CBT is structured to address the complex interplay between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influenced by traumatic experiences. It aims to provide young survivors and their families with the skills to process trauma, manage distressing emotions, and foster a supportive environment for healing.

Core Components of TF-CBT

TF-CBT is delivered typically over 12 to 16 sessions, each focusing on specific components represented by the acronym PRACTICE:

  • Psychoeducation: Educating children and their caregivers about trauma and its impact.
  • Relaxation: Teaching relaxation techniques to manage physiological arousal and stress.
  • Affective Expression and Regulation: Helping children identify and express their emotions and develop emotional regulation skills.
  • Cognitive Coping: Assisting children in identifying and challenging distorted or unhelpful thoughts related to the trauma.
  • Trauma Narrative: Guiding children in creating a narrative of their traumatic experience, which helps in processing and making sense of the trauma.
  • In Vivo Gradual Exposure: Gradually exposing children to situations or things they have been avoiding due to trauma-related fear.
  • Conjoint Child-Parent Sessions: Facilitating sessions where children and their caregivers can communicate about the trauma, enhancing understanding and support.
  • Enhancing Future Safety and Development: Teaching safety and coping skills to prevent future victimization and to enhance resilience.

Benefits and Application

TF-CBT has been shown to be effective in treating a range of trauma-related issues in children and adolescents, including:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression
  • Behavioral Problems

It is particularly beneficial for young survivors of sexual abuse, physical abuse, accidents, natural disasters, and witnessing violence.

Who Can Benefit from TF-CBT?

TF-CBT is designed for children and adolescents aged 3 to 18 who have experienced significant traumatic events and are struggling with trauma-related emotional and behavioral difficulties. Caregiver involvement is a crucial aspect of TF-CBT, making it suitable for families willing to engage in the therapeutic process.

Training and Practice

Practitioners of TF-CBT are mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatrists, who have undergone specialized training in TF-CBT. Certification requires completing training courses, demonstrating competency through supervised practice, and staying current with continuing education.


Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy offers an effective and compassionate approach to helping children and adolescents heal from trauma. By addressing the emotional and psychological needs of young trauma survivors and their families, TF-CBT facilitates recovery, resilience, and a return to normalcy.