Can Trauma‐Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF CBT) be used for adults? I've been told that it is applicable to adults but the literature I've found is all focused on children. Has anyone found this used in connection with adults?


Deblinger, E., Mannarino, A.P., Cohen, J.A., Runyon, M.K. and Steer, R.A. (2011), Trauma‐focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children: impact of the trauma narrative and treatment length. Depress. Anxiety, 28: 67-75. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20744


While there are major issues surrounding CBT in general, and the clinical studies (see my answer to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Limitations), the UK charity Mind, points out (Mind, n.d.) that:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – currently recommends [in guideline CG26] two types of talking treatment for PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]

One of them being trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT):

This is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) specifically adapted for PTSD. NICE recommends that you are offered 8–12 regular sessions of around 60–90 minutes, seeing the same therapist at least once a week.

For the studies on weekly therapy, see Why is almost all therapy done as one-hour sessions weekly?

The American Psychological Association (APA) has a write-up on how CBT can supposedly be used to treat PTSD (APA, n.d.) and they reference a book CBT for anxiety disorders: A practitioner book with a section on the subject of TF-CBT (Ehlers, 2013)

While a lot of studies on TF-CBT have been focused on supporting child sufferers of PTSD, it reportedly is effective for adults too (Forbes et al., 2007) - Free PDF available from The Pennsylvania State University

[W]hile psychoeducation, AM [Anxiety Management] and SIT [Stress Inoculation Training] were not as effective as trauma focused CBT or EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing] as stand-alone interventions, elements of these interventions may well have a role as part of a broader trauma-focused treatment. While models of brief trauma-focused psychodynamic therapy have been developed, they have not been sufficiently tested in controlled studies to derive practice recommendations. Supportive counselling and hypnotherapy have not been found to be effective as stand-alone interventions when compared to trauma-focused CBT or EMDR.


APA (n.d.). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/cognitive-behavioral-therapy

Ehlers, A. (2013). Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder. In Simos, G., & Hofmann, S. G. (eds). CBT for anxiety disorders: A practitioner book (pp. 161-190). New York, NY: Wiley. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470975520.html

Forbes, D., Creamer, M., Phelps, A., Bryant, R., McFarlane, A., Devilly, G. J., ... & Newton, S. (2007). Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 41(8), 637-648. https://doi.org/10.1080%2F00048670701449161

Mind (n.d.). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-complex-ptsd/treatment/


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