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How children can overcome trauma with psychotherapy

A multicenter randomized controlled trial performed in Germany and published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics discloses new indications for overcoming trauma in children and adolescents.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (Tf-CBT) is efficacious for children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Its effectiveness in clinical practice has still to be investigated. The main goal of the study was to determine whether Tf-CBT is superior to waiting list (WL), and to investigate the predictors of treatment response.

The Authors conducted a single-blind parallel-group randomized controlled trial in eight German outpatient clinics with the main inclusion criteria of age 7-17 years, symptom score ?35 on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for Children and Adolescents (CAPS-CA), and caregiver participation. Patients were randomly assigned to 12 sessions of Tf-CBT (n = 76) or a WL (n = 83).

The primary outcome was the CAPS-CA symptom score assessed at 4 months by blinded evaluators. The secondary measures were diagnostic status, the Children’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS), self-reported and caregiver-reported PTSS (UCLA-PTSD Reaction Index), the Child Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory (CPTCI), the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI), the Screen for Child Anxiety- Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED), the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL/4-18), and the Quality of Life Inventory for Children.

Intention-to-treat analyses showed that Tf-CBT was significantly superior to WL on the CAPS-CA (Tf-CBT: baseline = 58.51 ± 17.41; 4 months = 32.16 ± 26.02; WL: baseline = 57.39 ± 16.05; 4 months = 43.29 ± 25.2; F1, 157 = 12.3; p = 0.001; d = 0.50), in terms of secondary measures of the CGAS, UCLA-PTSD-RI, CPTCI, CDI, SCARED, and CBCL/4-18, but not in terms of quality of life. Age and comorbidity significantly predicted treatment response.

The Authors concluded that Tf-CBT is effective for children and adolescents with heterogeneous trauma types in German service settings. In addition, younger patients with fewer comorbid disorders show most improvement.

Article: Effectiveness of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children and Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Eight German Mental Health Clinics, Goldbeck L, Muche R, Sachser C, Tutus D, Rosner R., Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, doi: 10.1159/000442824, published online 5 April 2016.