Trauma-focused CBT for youth who experience ongoing traumas
Many youth experience ongoing trauma exposure, such as domestic or community violence. Clinicians often ask whether evidence-based treatments containing exposure components to reduce learned fear responses to historical trauma are appropriate for these youth. Essentially the question is, if youth are desensitized to their trauma experiences, will this in some way impair their responding to current or ongoing trauma? The paper addresses practical strategies for implementing one evidence-based treatment, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for youth with ongoing traumas. Collaboration with local therapists and families participating in TF-CBT community and international programs elucidated effective strategies for applying TF-CBT with these youth. These strategies included: (1) enhancing safety early in treatment; (2) effectively engaging parents who experience personal ongoing trauma; and (3) during the trauma narrative and processing component focusing on (a) increasing parental awareness and acceptance of the extent of the youths' ongoing trauma experiences; (b) addressing youths' maladaptive cognitions about ongoing traumas; and (c) helping youth differentiate between real danger and generalized trauma reminders. Case examples illustrate how to use these strategies in diverse clinical situations. Through these strategies TF-CBT clinicians can effectively improve outcomes for youth experiencing ongoing traumas.