Trauma Focused CBT

What is Trauma-Focused CBT?

Trauma-Focused CBT is an adapted form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which aims to help individuals who have experienced trauma to process and make sense of their experience, and rebuild their lives.

Trauma-Focused CBT works on processing the traumatic memory/memories using the principle of exposure. This means that in your imagination (and sometimes by re-visiting the scene of the traumatic incident), you will ‘re-live’ the trauma in the presence of a sensitive and compassionate therapist. Trauma-Focused CBT works on the principle of habituation to fear, meaning that the more you re-experience the fear associated with the memory of the trauma, the less frightening the memory becomes.  Trauma-Focused CBT, by using exposure in this way, also helps you to ‘process’ the memory that has become ‘stuck’ in the fear centre of your brain (please see trauma pages to learn more about this).

A further aspect of trauma-focused CBT is to help you to challenge negative beliefs that you may have developed in response to the traumatic incident(s). You may hold negative or fearful beliefs about yourself/others, the world, and/or your future. Your therapist will help you to identify and challenge these beliefs.

Thirdly, you will be helped by your therapist to start facing situations (or people/places) that you are avoiding because of memories associated with the traumatic incident(s).

The idea is that the combination of all these treatment principles helps you to fully reclaim and rebuild your life, following a traumatic experience/experiences.

What can I expect during Trauma-Focused CBT?

There are many variations of Trauma-Focused CBT, but the common principle is exposure to the traumatic incident/s, usually in your imagination.  Therefore, if you are undertaking Trauma-Focused CBT, you will be expected to recall these experiences. However, you will be well prepared for this, and your therapist will help you with some ‘grounding’ techniques before moving onto exposure. You may also draw up a ‘hierarchy’ of the memories, and start with the least distressing memory. Some models encourage ‘prolonged’ exposure, and others encourage being briefly exposed to a ‘traumatic hot-spot’. Your therapist will decide with you the best way of working.

Usually, this exposure takes place earlier in therapy, before you are encouraged to start facing situations that you are avoiding. However, each individual is different, and sometimes it will be negotiated that these therapeutic tasks are done in a different order.

What is important in trauma-focused CBT is that all aspects of exposure, challenging trauma-related beliefs and reducing avoidance are included within your therapy plan. If these aspects are not offered, then you are not receiving trauma-focused CBT.

Usually you would expect to undertake between 8-12 sessions of trauma-focused CBT. If there is more than one traumatic incident, then up to 20 sessions may be recommended. You should aim for sessions to take place weekly, and they will be between 60-90 minutes long.

Why trauma-focused CBT?

Trauma-focused CBT is an evidence-based psychotherapy for trauma/PTSD that is recommended within the NICE guidelines, and is offered within the NHS. Trauma-focused CBT targets the three main areas associated with trauma: hyperarousal (anxiety), intrusions & re-experiencing (flashbacks), and avoidance.   If all three areas are successfully targeted in treatment, you should expect to start to live your life more fully once again.

Why choose Nicola @ Nine Wellbeing for Trauma-Focused CBT?

Nicola is a sensitive and compassionate psychotherapist, and has spent many years training in trauma-related therapies, and working in specialist NHS settings. Qualified in both CBT and EMDR (another specialist trauma therapy), she understands trauma, and is well equipped to offer psychotherapy that aims to reduce the impact of traumatic stress and PTSD.  However, Nicola recognises that individuals respond in unique ways, and will offer you flexibility within your treatment plan, whilst working within evidence-based trauma guidelines.  If you would like to know more  about trauma-focused therapy with Nicola, please contact here.

Nicola Forshaw holds a Masters Degree in Counselling (with distinction), a diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and a certificate in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy.  Nicola is a highly experienced trauma/PTSD therapist and is fully qualified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). She is accredited by BACP (British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy), and is also a registered member.