Understanding Trauma and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

by | Team Posts, Child & Teen Therapy, Individual Therapy, Trauma, Willena Hayes

Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is used to treat childhood trauma. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy helps people between 3 and 21-years-old who are experiencing significant difficulties related to traumatic life events. Trauma happens when an experience disrupts a person’s sense of safety and their ability to cope. Childhood trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. Some childhood traumas that young people experience include significant loss, medical injury or illness, bullying, or sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. A child can also experience trauma by witnessing someone else’s trauma, such as domestic violence or witnessing a car accident. 

Childhood is a vulnerable time, but trauma during this stage of life can be especially devastating. The experience of childhood trauma is unique, but trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to help children and their families recover. Many studies have proven trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to work effectively. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is an approach to helping children and their families overcome trauma by learning to manage the emotional, mental, and behavioral effects of trauma. Being informed in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy will allow you to decide if this is the best treatment for you or your child. 

Who needs Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF CBT)?

For some people, the impact after a devastating experience can feel far worse than the experience itself. Childhood trauma is a parent’s worst nightmare. The impact of childhood trauma impacts the child, the parents, and the family.  Sometimes the changes are immediate, and sometimes a young person begins to feel, act, and think differently much later on in life. TF-CBT is most effective for young adults, adolescents, and children. Other trauma therapies such as EMDR may be helpful if you are an adult or if TF-CBT does not sound like the right fit for you. 

How to recognize trauma and the need for TF-CBT?

trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy

Experts define trauma as an experience where a person feels they had no control, where someone or something threatens the emotional or physical safety of themselves or someone they love, and where they experience changes that limit their ability to cope. People may experience different changes depending on their age.  A young person might have nightmares, wet the bed, or have strong reactions to things that remind them about what happened. They might have changed from being a happy-go-lucky child to being sad all the time, having angry outbursts, fight more with siblings or school friends, or withdrawal. They might seem numb and unaffected and try to avoid everything that has to do with what happened to them. These changes might lead to school problems or problems at home.

What to expect as a parent or guardian?

Parents may have a difficult time trying to help their children. Even if a child wants to express themselves, they may not always know how to communicate what has happened or how they feel. Parents often feel lost and wish that their children could tell them exactly what they need from them. Parents sometimes even experience secondary trauma when they learn what happened to their child. 

Some parents feel guilty that the trauma happened. They question how something like this could have happened without them knowing. Anxiety overcomes some parents’ thinking that the trauma will happen again. The behavioral difficulties that stem from childhood trauma may get frustrating to address for both the parent and the child. Finding the balance between what is normal child activity and what is trauma-induced can be difficult. You may start to question the idea of setting boundaries, having structure, and using discipline if you are worried that these things are too harsh on your child after trauma occurs. It’s not always easy to know how to balance between being compassionate and understanding and knowing when to give more structure and stability. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy can help empower a parent or caregiver relieving stress around their child’s trauma. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy can also help the child learn how to cope with the trauma they experienced.

Where did Trauma-Forced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy start? 

trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy techniquesTF-CBT was first developed in the 1990s by three doctors who specialize in mental health: Judith Cohen, Esther Deblinger, and Anthony Mannarino.  Their original goal was to serve children who had experienced sexual abuse. As time continued, other therapists learned that this approach worked for other traumas too. They added more techniques to the approach. And since then TF-CBT has expanded to include services for young people who have experienced multiple types of trauma. TF-CBT is now used to help single or repeated experiences of sexual, physical, or mental abuse, neglect, bullying, traumatic loss of a loved one, exposure to violence in the home or community, family separations, medical traumas, and many other types of traumatic events. It has been researched and shown to be effective with a variety of ages, including children as young as 3 years old, and young adults as old as 21-years-old. 

What type of therapy is Trauma-Forced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy techniquesTF-CBT addresses the specific emotional, mental, and behavioral health needs of children and their families following a traumatic experience. The approach is also easily adapted to work for children at specific ages. TF-CBT includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on how thinking affects behavior. TF-CBT is a combination of different therapy techniques to address the different changes that occur.  

  •     A trauma-focused perspective recognizes the unique impact of post-traumatic stress on multiple areas of a person’s life. When in session, the therapist is knowledgeable of post-traumatic stress symptoms, and the way stress affects the brain, body, thoughts, and emotions. Therapists create safety for the clients by using different techniques like relaxed breathing and guided imagery. Safety allows the client to discuss their trauma in more depth.
  •     Cognitive-behavioral interventions help clients to start recognizing the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and actions using their day-to-day experiences. Sometimes there are also activities to do at home like monitor your thoughts and then come back to the next session to talk about them.
  •     Behavioral management principles help parents learn ways to increase acceptable behaviors and decrease unacceptable behaviors. For example, parents learn the motivation behind their children’s behavior to feel empowered to know which behaviors to ignore, which behaviors to reward, and when to give consequences.
  •     A family systems approach recognizes that a is impacted by their relationships with others as often as they impact others. This is why the approach includes other family members as often as possible, to help the whole family heal.
  •     A strengths-based, person-centered, and recovery-driven model aligns with a popular movement in mental health. This approach focuses on empowering individuals and their families, using strengths that they already have. It is also uniquely tailored to the specific needs and barriers of each family. And the approach helps people return to either a previous or higher level of functioning.

Learn more about what to expect from trauma focused therapy.

How long does Trauma-Forced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy last? 

trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapyTF-CBT is a short-term treatment that generally lasts anywhere between 12-24 sessions, depending on the nature of the trauma and who is involved in the treatment.  Sessions are weekly and range from one to one and one-half hour sessions. Therapists have implemented this approach in outpatient mental health therapy offices, group homes, community centers, in-patient hospitals, schools, and in-home settings. Over 80% of children who receive TF-CBT experience significant improvement after about 8-weeks of trauma therapy treatment.

What now? 

While childhood trauma may feel like a nightmare has come true in your family, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy can be the comforting glow of light that gets your family through the difficult nights.

Once you recognize that you or your child is experiencing trauma, deciding which therapy approach will work for your family can be a tough choice.

Now that you have some information about trauma and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, you may have more questions. You can read more about what to expect from this type of therapy here.  If you are ready to explore this therapy approach further, you can call The Better You Institute and make an appointment at 267-495-4951 with one of our trauma specialist therapists, or visit our page on individual trauma therapy. We also offer online trauma therapy for those who do not live in the Philadelphia area


Our Approach to Smoking and Tobacco Cessation

The journey to quit smoking cessation is a big step towards reclaiming your health and well-being. The Food and Drug Administration recommends against using tobacco due to its well-documented adverse health effects. At our Philadelphia center near you, we understand the complications of nicotine addiction and the challenges it presents. Our therapeutic strategy for smoking and tobacco cessation is rooted in compassionate, evidence-based methods that respect your unique story and struggles.

Complete Assessment: Every journey begins with understanding. Our initial cessation counseling sessions are dedicated to exploring your relationship with tobacco and assessing the right path for you if you’re asking how to quit tobacco products. We look into your smoking history, triggers, and any previous attempts to quit. This thorough assessment allows us to tailor a smoking cessation plan that aligns with your personal goals and challenges.

Personalized Therapy Plans: Recognizing that no two individuals are alike, we offer customized therapy solutions. Our plans integrate a mix of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and mindfulness techniques geared toward breaking the mental need for nicotine. We address not just the act of smoking but the emotional and situational triggers that accompany it. 

Skill Development for Long-term Success: Our approach focuses on equipping you with the tools and skills needed to quit tobacco for good. This includes strategies for managing cravings, emotional regulation techniques to cope with stress without relying on tobacco, and building a supportive environment helpful in your success.

Supportive Environment: We provide a non-judgmental, supportive setting that encourages openness and trust. Understanding the ups and downs of quitting smoking, we offer continuous support and motivation, ensuring you never feel alone in your journey. We recognize the habit of smoking is difficult to break. We also recognize that smoking sometimes offers more than just a nicotine hit, such as a break from work or family. 

Holistic Well-being and Focus: Beyond cessation, our therapy emphasizes overall well-being. We explore the impact of smoking on your physical health, relationships, and self-esteem, aiming to enhance your quality of life across all fronts.

Relapse Prevention: Quitting is not a straightforward process, our program includes comprehensive relapse prevention strategies. We help you identify potential pitfalls and develop a plan to navigate them, ensuring long-term success. We recognize the habit of smoking is difficult to break. We also recognize that smoking sometimes offers more than just a nicotine hit, such as a break from work or family. 

Continuous Evaluation and Adjustment: We believe in the power of adaptability. Your therapy plan is regularly reviewed and adjusted based on your progress, challenges, and feedback, ensuring it remains aligned with your evolving needs and goals.

Meet Our Smoking Cessation Therapist in Philadelphia

Our Philadelphia smoking cessation treatment therapist specializes in helping individuals navigate the journey to becoming smoke-free. Using evidence-based practices, they focus on your unique needs, providing tailored support to overcome the challenges of quitting tobacco. With a commitment to your overall well-being, our team offers the encouragement and strategies necessary for lasting change, ensuring a compassionate and effective path toward a healthier life.

Reasons to Seek Therapy for Quitting Tobacco

Quitting tobacco is a transformative journey that extends beyond physical health; it’s a pathway to reclaiming control over your life. Therapy offers a structured, supportive environment where you can tackle the challenge with professional guidance, making the process more manageable and the outcomes more sustainable.

Break the Physical Dependence

Therapy provides practical strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the physical craving for nicotine. By understanding the nature of addiction, individuals can learn to break the cycle of dependence, using tools and techniques that address both the immediate challenges of quitting and the long-term goal of staying tobacco-free.

Improve Overall Mental and Physical Health

Quitting tobacco significantly boosts both mental and physical health. Therapy aids in reducing the stress, anxiety, and depression often associated with quitting while also supporting the body’s recovery from the harmful effects of tobacco use. This focus ensures a holistic improvement in quality of life.

Strengthen Self-Esteem and Confidence

The process of quitting tobacco, supported by therapy, can dramatically enhance self-esteem and confidence. Achieving this milestone reinforces an individual’s belief in overcoming challenges, strengthening a positive self-image, and a can-do attitude towards life’s obstacles.

Set a Foundation for Long-Term Health

Therapy not only aids in quitting tobacco but also sets the groundwork for a healthier future. By establishing healthy habits and coping mechanisms, individuals can protect themselves against the long-term risks associated with tobacco use, such as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory issues, paving the way for a longer, more vibrant life.

Financial Saving and Freedom

Quitting tobacco with the help of therapy can lead to significant financial savings. The cost of purchasing cigarettes or tobacco products adds up, and therapy can help redirect these funds towards more fulfilling and health-promoting uses, offering both financial freedom and an enhanced lifestyle.

FAQ For Smoking Cessation Counseling

What is tobacco cessation therapy?

Tobacco cessation therapy is a specialized form of behavioral counseling designed to help individuals quit smoking or using tobacco products by addressing both the physical addiction and the psychological factors that contribute to tobacco use.

Is tobacco cessation therapy effective for everyone?

While individual results can vary, many people find therapy can be an effective addition to quitting tobacco, especially when combined with other treatments like nicotine replacement therapy.

What to expect in your therapy sessions

In your therapy sessions, you can expect a supportive and non-judgmental environment where you will work together with your therapist to understand your tobacco use, identify triggers, and develop personalized strategies for quitting. Sessions often include setting quit goals, learning stress management techniques, and building skills to cope with cravings and avoid relapse.

How does therapy help in quitting tobacco?

Therapy helps by identifying triggers, teaching coping strategies to deal with cravings and stress, addressing underlying emotional or psychological issues, and providing support and motivation throughout the quitting process.

Can therapy address nicotine withdrawal symptoms?

Yes, therapy can provide strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and cravings and can suggest medical resources if necessary. Other supplementary cessation medications, such as a nicotine patch, or nasal spray can help with withdrawal symptoms.

How long does tobacco cessation therapy take?

The duration varies depending on the individual’s needs and progress, but it typically involves multiple sessions over several weeks or months to provide adequate support and guidance. The smoking cessation therapist will maintain an open dialogue with you about progress and discharge. 

What is Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)?

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) involves using products that supply low doses of nicotine without the harmful chemicals found in tobacco. The aim is to ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting tobacco by gradually reducing the body’s dependence on nicotine. Common forms of NRT include patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays.

What happens to your body when you quit tobacco?

When you quit tobacco, your body begins to heal immediately from the harmful effects of tobacco. Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. Over the next few months, circulation improves, lung function increases, and your risk of heart attack begins to decrease. Long-term benefits include a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases, and significant overall health and longevity improvement.

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