Do caregivers’ perspectives matter? Working alliances and treatment outcomes in trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy with children and adolescents

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

S. Loos, D. Tutus, R. Kilian & L. Goldbeck

Background: Caregivers play a key role in the success of trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT). Yet, the effect of their alliance on treatment outcomes besides the other parties in treatment has hardly been studied.

Objective: This study examined the working alliance (WA) of therapists, patients and caregivers in TF-CBT and its contribution on treatment outcome over time.

Methods: N = 76 children and adolescents (mean age = 12.66 years, range 7–17, M/F ratio: .43) participated in the TF-CBT arm of a randomized controlled trial. The WA was assessed with the Working Alliance Inventory Short Version (WAI-S) at two measurement points, while symptom level of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) was assessed with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for Children and Adolescents (CAPS-CA). Paired sample t-tests, intraclass correlations (ICC), and mixed-effects regression models for longitudinal data were performed.

Results: The alliance rating was high across all informants, with caregivers achieving the highest rating. The average level of cross-informant agreement on the alliance was low between therapists and caregivers (ICC = .26) and moderate between therapists and patients (ICC =.65). A significant contribution of an alliance improvement to the reduction of PTSS over time was found in each of the two tested models: therapists with patients model (b = .682) and therapists with caregivers model (b = .807). However, these effects were not detected with all four perspectives in one comprehensive model.

Conclusion: In summary, the potential of caregivers’ views should receive more attention in the therapeutic process of trauma-focused therapy.

Received 15 Apr 2019, Accepted 29 Mar 2020, Published online: 13 May 2020

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