Trauma-Focused CBT

Below you’ll find more information and videos about trauma and its effects on children, as well as how Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) works.

TF-CBT Handout for Caregivers


A trauma is any very scary or even life-threatening situation that a child might experience. There are many different types of traumas, but what they all have in common is that they disrupt a child’s sense of safety. Our therapists often work with children who have been sexually or physically abused, witnessed violence in the home or community, watched loved ones overdose from drugs, or experienced a serious accident. Many kids have seen something scary happen to a parent or loved one.

Other children have been neglected or abused in their biological families, perhaps from an early age. In many cases this abuse has resulted in separation from their parents or placement in foster care, which can itself be a traumatic experience for children, even if it is necessary to keep them safe.


Some children “bounce back” quickly after a trauma. However, many children develop post-traumatic symptoms. Some examples include:

  • nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • strong reactions to reminders of the trauma
  • trouble concentrating
  • being jumpy or startling easily
  • avoiding any reminders of what happened
  • frequent stomachaches or headaches
  • becoming moody and irritable
  • withdrawing or losing interest in things
  • behavior problems
  • trouble getting along with others
  • re-enacting what happened with toys, or bringing it up over and over again
  • becoming very clingy or afraid to be alone
  • “freezing up,” or seeming unresponsive or “spaced out”

When this happens, children need help to cope with what has happened and begin to heal.

Children who experienced abuse or neglect at a very young age may develop signs of developmental trauma, meaning that their experiences have disrupted healthy development. They may have difficulties with relationships, learning, behavior, and mood.


The video below, created by Dr. Liz and the Penn State EPISCenter, explains what to expect.

Learn more about TF-CBT at the website for the National TF-CBT Therapist Certification Program