Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a treatment for children and adolescents impacted by trauma and their parents or caregivers. While TF-CBT was originally developed to address the needs of children who experienced sexual abuse, over the past 15 years it has been used and studied for many other populations of traumatized youth. Research now documents that TF-CBT is effective for diverse, multiple and complex trauma experiences, for youth of different developmental levels, and across different cultures.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

TF-CBT is a structured, short-term treatment model that effectively improves a range of trauma-related outcomes in 8-25 sessions with the child/adolescent and caregiver. Although TF-CBT is highly effective at improving youth posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and diagnosis, a PTSD diagnosis is not required in order to receive this treatment. TF-CBT also effectively addresses many other trauma impacts, including affective (e.g., depressive, anxiety), cognitive and behavioral problems, as well as improving the participating parent’s or caregiver’s personal distress about the child’s traumatic experience, effective parenting skills, and supportive interactions with the child.

Continuum of Care:

Topic Areas:
Anxiety, Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Depression, Trauma

Adult (25+), Childhood (4-12), Early Childhood (0-3), Teen/Adolescent (13-18), Young Adult (19-24)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:
Community-Based, Congregate Care Facility, Virtual

Cultural Considerations:
Significant and well-articulated attention was given to disparities in outcomes

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment for children and adolescents impacted by trauma and their parents or caregivers.

Master’s degree or above, certification required


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
Approved national trainer, a treatment developer, or an approved national, regional, or state TF-CBT Learning Collaborative of at least six months.

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Stewart, R. W., Orengo-Aguayo, R., Young, J., Wallace, M. M., Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., & de Arellano, M. A. (2020). Feasibility and effectiveness of a telehealth service delivery model for treating childhood posttraumatic stress: A community-based, open pilot trial of trauma-focused cognitive–behavioral therapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 30(2), 274.

Peters, W., Rice, S., Cohen, J., Smith, N. B., McDonnell, C. G., Winch, A., Nicasio, A. V., Zeifman, R. J., Alvarez-Jimenez, M., & Bendall, S. (2022, June 9). Subjective Distress, Self-Harm, and Suicidal Ideation or Behavior Throughout Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Transitional Age Youth. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication.

Peters, W., Rice, S., Cohen, J., Murray, L., Schley, C., Alvarez-Jimenez, M., & Bendall, S. (2021).
Trauma-focused cognitive–behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) for interpersonal trauma in transitional-aged youth. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 13(3), 313.

Ascienzo, S., Sprang, G., & Royse, D. (2022). Gender differences in the PTSD symptoms of polytraumatized youth during isolated phases of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychological trauma: theory, research, practice, and policy, 14(3), 488.

Jensen, T. K., Holt, T., Mørup Ormhaug, S., Fjermestad, K. W., & Wentzel-Larsen, T. (2018).
Change in post-traumatic cognitions mediates treatment effects for traumatized youth—A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 65(2), 166.

Wymer, B., Ohrt, J. H., Morey, D., & Swisher, S. (2020). Integrating expressive arts techniques into trauma-focused treatment with children. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 42(2), 124-139.

Rith-Najarian, L. R., Triplett, N. S., Weisz, J. R., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2021). Identifying intervention strategies for preventing the mental health consequences of childhood adversity: A modified Delphi study. Development and psychopathology, 33(2), 748-765.

Additional Sources:

Well-Supported by Research

WV Rating:
Well-Supported by Research
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

TF-CBT has been well studied and in each article found all indicated significant improvement in PTSD symptoms.

Contraindications or Concerns:
None identified

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Well-Supported by Research Evidence

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:
Not On Registry

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:
Effective RCT

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Effective - More than one study

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Found on the registry. See link for more information.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Registry Link: