“Same Same or Adapted?” Therapists’ Feedback on the Implementation of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy With Unaccompanied Young Refugees


  • Johanna Unterhitzenberger Orcid
  • Sophia Haberstumpf
  • Rita Rosner
  • Elisa Pfeiffer Orcid


Background: Rates of trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are high among refugee youth. Although there is a vast evidence base on effective trauma-focused interventions for children and adolescents, there is only limited understanding of how to adapt these interventions for oftentimes severely traumatized young refugees. This study aims to investigate adaptations undertaken during trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) in a pilot study with unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs).
Method: Written answers on five questions given by N = 9 therapists on N = 16 TF-CBT cases were analysed qualitatively using Mayring’s content analysis. The questions were on (1) additional techniques used in the sessions, (2) obstacles to TF-CBT treatment, (3) cultural factors considered and most helpful components for (4) patient and (5) therapist. The categories were built inductively and analysed descriptively.
Results: In addition to the regular TF-CBT components, added content mostly concerned the so-called “crisis of the week”, meaning a more lengthy discussion of struggles and concerns in their daily lives. Few obstacles in treatment were reported, and little cultural factors had to be considered. The implementation of a trauma narrative and the agenda provided by the manual were frequently reported as helpful.
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that the manualized evidence-based treatment TF-CBT can be used in the culturally heterogeneous population of URMs with minor adaptations. These findings can contribute to future research as well as clinical practice with URMs.