What is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how is it different from regular Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?


If you’ve ever experienced therapy, you’re probably familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a therapeutic modality that uses proven strategies to identify disordered thinking that leads to unproductive behaviors. Then, strategies are employed to change unproductive thinking patterns to change behavior.

But what about Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)? How does it differ from traditional CBT, and who is it designed to help?

This article examines TF-CBT: its definition, how it differs from CBT, and what it looks like in action.


What Is TF-CBT?

TF-CBT uses CBT techniques to directly target the negative impacts of trauma. This approach helps individuals overcome the memories and difficult behavioral and/or thought patterns that have been triggered by traumatic experiences. The goal is to teach individuals healthy coping strategies that will allow them to grow beyond the trauma.


How Does TF-CBT Differ from Regular CBT?

Regular CBT can be applied to a broad range of psychological challenges. CBT is commonly used to treat anxiety, relationship challenges, phobias, and addictions among other struggles.

Trauma-Focused CBT is a therapy that directly addresses the emotional and psychological impact of traumatic events.


What Does TF-CBT Look Like in Action?

There are three main approaches to Trauma-Focused CBT that have been proven effective for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

1. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
CPT works to identify and change unrealistic and unhelpful thoughts surrounding a traumatic experience. By reframing a traumatic experience, the individual can create a new understanding of the traumatic event, allowing them to experience less trauma associated with the memory. When thoughts surrounding the trauma are less triggering, the client can return to living a more normal life.


2. Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA)
This approach focuses on treating the symptoms of PTSD. Therapists work with clients to choose treatment options from 8 specific treatment components. These components include:
• Psychoeducation
• Relaxation
• Cognitive Coping
• Exposure-Trauma Memories
• Exposure-Live
• Cognitive Restructuring
• Behavioral Activation
• Problem Solving

By using these treatment components to address specific PTSD symptoms, our client can reduce the negative impact of stressful symptoms so they can return to living a normal life.


3. Prolonged Exposure (PE)
Prolonged Exposure works with the individual to reduce the intensity of negative emotions associated with trauma. Over time, the individual experiences more and more exposure to the traumatic event via memory. The goal is to “wear down” the intensity of the negative emotions surrounding the trauma.


Try TF-CBT at Creative Counseling Center

At Creative Counseling Center, we specialize in trauma-focused therapy. If you…

• Have personally experienced sexual, physical, or mental abuse – recently or in the past
• Have been diagnosed with, or believe you may have, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Have developed post-traumatic symptoms, depression, or anxiety due to trauma you have witnessed or experienced

…we want to help you recover and regain peace.




At Creative Counseling Center, we provide therapy to young children, adolescents, teens and adults struggling with past or recent trauma, as well as anxiety, depression, grief and loss, stress due to life transitions, and more. If you feel overwhelmed working through any one or more of these on your own, we want to help. Request a FREE Phone Consultation by completing the brief form below and a member of our team will contact you. Together we will help you decide whether our practice and which therapist is best equipped to support you or your loved one.