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.