Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is the treatment of choice for traumatized youth, however, follow-up studies are scarce, and treatment effects for co-occurring depression show mixed findings. The aims of this study were to examine whether treatment effects of TF-CBT are maintained at 18 month follow-up and whether degree of co-occurring depression influences treatment effects. As rapid improvement in psychological functioning is warranted for youth, we also investigated whether the symptom trajectory was different for TF-CBT compared to therapy as usual (TAU). The sample consisted of 156 youth (M age = 15.05, 79.50% girls) randomly assigned to TF-CBT or TAU. The youth were assessed for posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), depression, anxiety and general mental health symptoms. Mixed effects analyses followed the symptom courses over 5 time points. Youth receiving TF-CBT maintained their symptom improvement at 18 months follow-up with scores below clinical cut-of on all symptom measures. The most depressed youth had also a significant decline in symptoms that were maintained at follow-up. Symptom trajectories differed as the TF-CBT group reported a more rapid symptom reduction compared to the TAU condition. In the TAU condition, participants received 1.5 times the number of treatment sessions compared to the TF-CBT participants. After 18 months the groups were significantly different on general mental health symptoms only. In conclusion, youth receiving TF-CBT experienced more efficient improvement in trauma related symptoms than youth receiving TAU and these improvements were maintained after 18 months. Also youth experiencing serious co-occurring depression benefitted from TF-CBT.
The aims of this study were to examine whether treatment effects of TF-CBT are maintained at 18 month follow-up and whether degree of co-occurring depression influences treatment effects