CBT for Disaster-Exposed Youth with PTSD

A recent study published in Behavior Therapy provides initial evidence for the efficacy of manualized Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for disaster-exposed youth with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous research suggests that group-based CBT is effective in decreasing post-traumatic stress levels in youth. Treatment is often difficult to obtain for this population, however, due to lack of resources. The current study eliminated this obstacle by providing treatment within a school setting.

The current research was conducted on six youth exposed to Hurricane Katrina. The participants ranged from ages 8 to 13 from neighborhoods that experienced significant destruction following the disaster. Master’s level graduate students administered pre and post-tests to participants, and treatment was conducted by a doctoral level therapist using the StArT intervention— a trauma-focused CBT program designed specifically for hurricane-exposed youth. Treatment consisted of 10 sessions which included psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, exposure, problem solving, and relapse prevention.

Following the intervention, participants showed a decline in PTSD symptoms and no longer met criteria for PTSD at post-treatment. Half of the participants reported no other anxiety disorder diagnoses following treatment, and there was an overall reduction in the incidence of other anxiety problems common in this population.  While replication studies and further assessments are needed, the StArT manual shows promising potential as an effective CBT manual for disaster-exposed youth.

Taylor, L.K & Weems, C.F. (2011). Cognitive-behavior therapy for disaster-exposed youth with posttraumatic stress: Results from a multiple-baseline examination. Behavior Therapy, 42, 349-363.

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