Changes in the trauma narratives of youth receiving trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy in relation to posttraumatic stress symptoms

OBJECTIVE: To understand the meaning of trauma narration, we examined changes in the trauma narratives of youth receiving trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and explored the relationship between changes in narratives and in posttraumatic stress.


METHOD: The sample consisted of 12 non-responders and 12 maximum-responders to treatment (M = 14.3, SD = 2.35, range = 10-17; 75% girls). The youth were assessed with the Clinical-Administered PTSD-Scale for Children and Adolescents both pre- and post-treatment. Their first and last narratives were coded according to a standardized coding manual.

RESULTS: For the group as a whole there was an increase in organized thoughts and reports of internal events (e.g., descriptions of thoughts and feelings), while narrative fragmentation decreased. There were no significant narrative changes in external events (e.g., descriptions of actions and dialogues). Max-responders differed significantly from non-responders in developing more organized thoughts. We did not find a significant relationship between changes in narratives and changes in posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS).

CONCLUSIONS: Youth receiving TF-CBT develop narratives that contain more organized thoughts and a greater internal focus, which are both thought to be helpful for traumatized youth. However, more coherent and organized trauma narratives were not related to reductions in PTSS. Clinical or methodological significance of this article: This study suggests that trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy contributes to more organized and coherent trauma narratives for traumatized youth. Although, this may be important and contribute to meaning making, therapist should be aware that this may not be sufficient in reducing posttraumatic stress symptoms in youth.

Psychotherapy Research, 2017, doi: 10.1080/10503307.2017.1303208.

Published June 11, 2018 7:00 AM