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Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Schools


The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab (Colorado Lab) serves as the coordinating hub for Family First rigorous evaluation efforts on behalf of the Colorado Department of Human Services. In this role, we provide guidance and ensure strategic investments in evidence-building for promising programs, with the goal of informing selection and scaling of services that help keep kids safe and families together. One such service is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or TF-CBT. While this service is not currently on Colorado’s Prevention Services Plan, this evaluation may inform its role in the prevention continuum.

Currently rated as a promising practice, TF-CBT is a therapeutic intervention designed for children and adolescents who have symptoms associated with trauma experiences. The Colorado Lab has partnered with the Center for Policy Research (CPR) to build evidence for TF-CBT. The goal is to address the gap in research on TF-CBT’s delivery within schools, an easily accessible setting for providing therapy to young people. The study will also help move TF-CBT along the Steps to Building Evidence, with the end goal of achieving a well-supported practice rating.

CPR is collaborating with Denver Public Schools and an external Denver school-based therapy provider, Centus Counseling, to implement TF-CBT at 34 school sites, including elementary, middle, and high schools. The study will enroll students and deliver services in the 2023-2024 school year, and then measure sustained effects of TF-CBT on the well-being of youth up to 1 year post-treatment. This is critical to understanding how the intervention can resolve not only acute mental health needs, but also set youth up for long-term behavioral health and well-being.

“This is an exciting opportunity to inform Colorado’s Family First prevention strategy and help youth have the best possible chance of growing up with their families,” said Dr. Courtney Everson, Sr. Researcher/Project Director with the Colorado Lab. “The innovative focus on school-based settings will also generate learnings that can be applied to other prevention services to break down barriers to equitable behavioral health reach and access.”

To learn more, contact Dr. Courtney Everson.