How TF-CBT Can Help Your Child with Trauma Experience

Mary Romm is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Glouchester (VA).

You are concerned about your child. They’ve experienced something physically or emotionally that caused them distress, and it continues to affect them. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (TF-CBT), is available for children who have experienced trauma. 

How can I recognize trauma in my child’s eyes?

You might notice that your child is having nightmares, avoiding certain places, having trouble at school, and displaying aggression or a defensive default posture. You might notice that your child becomes angry at seemingly insignificant things. They may also be prone to mood swings, where they seem to be in denial or jumping up and down about the events. Your child could be having difficulties in relationships, feeling anxious or depressed, or any other symptoms.

What is Trauma for Children?

For parents, trauma can mean anything that makes their child feel helpless, unable, or even unable, to cope with the situation. The most common trauma for kids is divorce, sexual abuse and witnessing domestic violence. 

What is TF-CBT?

Good news — Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a research-based approach of 25 years that has been proven helpful for children and adolescents. 

TF-CBT works with your child to help them overcome negative thoughts and behaviors about what happened. Here’s how it works.

What Can We Expect From the Beginning of TF–CBT?

The therapist will begin with an assessment to determine whether your child has PTSD. This will allow you to understand your child’s trauma response and what is happening. The therapist will then work with your child to provide psychoeducation about the events. The psychoeducation phase can be used to reduce the guilt your child may feel and give your child words to explain what happened. It also allows your child to ask questions. 

How does TF-CBT address my child’s learning to manage their emotions?

You are probably wondering, “Okay, words and knowledge are great — but what about these symptoms?!” Next, the therapist will work with your child on coping skills. Your child will learn how relax, deep breath, and manage stressful situations. These are great skills for children and adults alike and can lay a foundation for your child’s future successful weathering of difficult situations in life. The children will then learn to name their feelings and work towards talking about the emotions. They’ll also start the work of understanding their feelings and emotions and bringing those up to the surface. This is a great way to help children who struggle to express their emotions or who are constantly angry but lack the words or the ability to see the deeper feelings underneath the anger.

How does TF/CBT finally address Trauma?

Once the foundation has been established, the child can begin to write a trauma story and share it with their parent. The therapist will work with the parent to prepare them for this moment. When done correctly, this sharing and healing can be extremely therapeutic and beneficial. 

What can I do as a parent involved in therapy?

As the parent, you’ll start with joint sessions with your child. Then you’ll have some sessions on your own, where you’ll get to talk about the event and how it impacted you, learn new parenting techniques and how to better support your child, and work toward better communication with your child.

You may find it helpful to pursue your own healing journey through therapy independent from your child’s TF-CBT. Start by doing a search for therapists in your area. Next, use our filters to narrow down your options. Common Specialities is a great place to start (most of them live under All other issues).

How many sessions does TF-CBT take?

TF-CBT can be done anywhere: outpatient facility, school or residential placement. It usually takes between 8-25 sessions.

Is TF – CBT Effective?

TF-CBT is highly effective. The gains can last for 2 years after treatment. The effects of TF-CBT on both the child and the parent have been shown to be beneficial. How’s that for a double whammy?

How do I find a TF CBT Therapist for my Child?

Start by searching GoodTherapy for the nearest GoodTherapy. Add two filters to your results. In the Age of Client(s), tick either the Children or Teen box. Scroll all the way to the bottom to tick Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 

Mary Willoughby Romm has been licensed as a professional counselor and offers online therapy for Virginia. She is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. This therapy option is great for children aged 2-7. She enjoys working alongside children from 2 years old to 7 years, teens, college students, and even women. You can find her at Willow Tree Healing Center.

© Copyright 2021 All rights reserved. Mary Romm, Licensed Professional counselor in Gloucester, VA, granted permission to publish

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