A Randomized Effectiveness Study Comparing Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy With Therapy as Usual for Youth

Jensen, T. K., Holt, T., Ormhaug, S. M., Egeland, K., Granly, L., Hoaas, L. E. C., Hukkelberg, S. S., Indregard, T., Stormyren, S., & Wentzel-Larsen, T. (2014). A Randomized Effectiveness Study Comparing Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy With Therapy as Usual for Youth. Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology (Print), 43(3), 356-369. doi:10.1080/15374416.2013.822307

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of TF-CBT in regular community settings compared With TAU.

The efficacy of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) has been shown in several randomized controlled trials. However, few trials have been conducted in community clinics, few have used therapy as usual (TAU) as a comparison group, and none have been conducted outside of the United States. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of TF-CBT in regular community settings compared with TAU.  

One hundred fifty-six traumatized youth (M age = 15.1 years, range = 10–18; 79.5% girls) were randomly assigned to TF-CBT or TAU. Intent-to-treat analysis using mixed effects models showed that youth receiving TF-CBT reported significantly lower levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms (est. = 5.78, d = 0.51), 95% CI [2.32, 9.23]; depression (est. = 7.00, d = 0.54), 95% CI [2.04, 11.96]; and general mental health symptoms (est. = 2.54, d = 0.45), 95% CI [0.50, 4.58], compared with youth in the TAU group. Youth assigned to TF-CBT showed significantly greater improvements in functional impairment (est. = −1.05, d = −0.55), 95% CI [−1.67, −0.42].

Although the same trend was found for anxiety reduction, this difference was not statistically significant (est. = 4.34, d = 0.30), 95% CI [−1.50, 10.19]. Significantly fewer youths in the TF-CBT condition were diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder compared to youths in the TAU condition, χ2(1, N = 116) = 4.61, p = .031, Phi = .20).

Findings indicate that TF-CBT is effective in treating traumatized youth in community mental health clinics and that the program may also be successfully implemented in countries outside the United States.

The Researchers