What Is Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)?

TF-CBT, developed by Dr. Esther Deblinger at the Rowan University CARES Institute in Stratford, NJ, in collaboration with Drs. Judith Cohen and Anthony Mannarino at Allegheny in Pittsburgh, PA, is an empirically supported treatment model that has been evaluated and refined over more than two decades to help children and adolescents overcome trauma related to abuse, violence and grief. To date, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) has the strongest evidence base of any treatment for trauma as it has more clinical trials to support it’s effectiveness in helping children overcome the impact of traumatic events than any other trauma treatment model available (Deblinger & Heflin, 1996; Cohen, Mannarino & Deblinger, 2016; Deblinger, Cohen, Mannarino), Runyon, & Heflin, 2016). This treatment approach has been recognized by the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a model program due to the extensive outcome data supporting its effectiveness. While TF-CBT was primarily developed for addressing the needs of children who have suffered sexual abuse, the model has been adapted for use with children who have suffered a variety of traumatic experiences, such as physical abuse, exposure to domestic violence, exposure to war, natural disasters, and traumatic grief.

Children and adolescents (ages 3-18) who have experienced a traumatic event (i.e., child sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, natural disaster) and their non-offending caregivers. These include children who are experiencing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depression, and behavior problems in response to the traumatic events as well as caregivers who experience distress related to their child’s trauma.

TF-CBT can effectively address a child’s emotional and behavioral difficulties in 12-16 sessions, and the model can be used in both individual and group therapy formats. Treatment generally consists of parallel sessions with children and their non-offending caregiver(s), as well as conjoint caregiver-child sessions in the later stages of therapy.

The PRACTICE acronym summarizes the core TF-CBT components:

  • Phase 1
                      Psychoeducation and Parenting Skills
                      Affective Modulation
                      Cognitive coping and processing
  • Phase 2
                      Trauma narrative
  • Phase 3
                      In vivo mastery of trauma reminders
                      Conjoint child-parent sessions
                      Enhancing future safety and development

How Effective is TF-CBT?

Research has documented that this treatment model effectively helps children and adolescents (ages 3 to 18) overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and feelings of shame as well as other behavioral and emotional difficulties. TF-CBT has also been associated with improvements in caregivers’ emotional distress and parenting skills. TF-CBT assists children in overcoming the traumatic event, assists caregivers in coping with their distress to enhance their ability to support their child, and strengthens parent-child relationships.

To learn more about TF-CBT, visit the following websites:

To complete free on-line training in TF-CBT, click on the website links below.

TF-CBTWeb provides free web-based training in TF-CBT

CTGWeb provides free web-based training in the use of TF-CBT with childhood traumatic grief

TF-CBTConsult provides free web-based advanced guidance on using TF-CBT in everyday practice

To learn more about becoming a certified TF-CBT Therapist, visit