Topic: Forced migration and refugee health

Giving a voice to traumatized youth-Experiences with Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Dittmann, I., & Jensen, T. K. (2014). Giving a voice to traumatized youth-Experiences with Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(7), 1221-1230. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.11.008

The efficacy of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) has been shown in several randomized controlled trials. However, to our knowledge no one has studied the TF-CBT model from a user's perspective.

The objective of this study was to explore traumatized youths’ experiences of receiving TF-CBT. Thirty youths between 11 and 17 years old (M=15, SD=1.8) were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide after they had received TF-CBT as part of an effectiveness trial. The interviews were analyzed according to thematic analysis. The youths’ responses were grouped into four themes: (1) expectations, (2) experiences of talking to the therapist and sharing information, (3) experiences of trauma narrative work, and (4) experiences of change and change processes. Findings showed how an initial fear of talking about traumatic events and not knowing what to expect from therapy was reduced when the youth experienced the therapist as empathetic and knowledgeable. Talking to the therapist was experienced as positive because of the therapist’s expertise, neutrality, empathy, and confidentiality. Talking about the trauma was perceived as difficult but also as most helpful. Learning skills for reducing stress was also perceived as helpful. Important change processes were described as resuming normal functioning and getting “back on track,”, or as acquiring new perspectives and “moving forward.” Because TF-CBT is recommended as a first line treatment for traumatized youth and treating posttraumatic stress may entail special challenges, understanding more about how youths experience this mode of treatment contributes to our knowledge base and may help us tailor interventions.

The Researchers

  • Jensen, Tine

    Jensen, Tine

    Research Professor/ Associate professor, Universit / PhD Psychology

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