Does the Therapist matter? Therapist Characteristics and their Relation to Outcome in Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children and Adolescents

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Elisa Pfeiffer, Silje Mørup Ormhaug, Dunja Tutus, Tonje Holt, Rita Rosner, Tore Wentzel Larsen & Tine K. Jensen


Background: There is a broad evidence-base for the effectiveness of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) in treating children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effect of therapist characteristics on patient symptoms has been neglected in psychotraumatology research and necessitates further investigation.

Objective: This study aims to investigate the impact of therapist characteristics (gender, clinical experience and theoretical background) on posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in a heterogeneous and international sample of traumatized children and adolescents.

Method: Data from two RCTs on the effectiveness of TF-CBT in Norway and Germany were included, comprising N = 52 therapists (78.8% female) and N = 153 patients (72.3% female). All therapists underwent thorough training and continuous supervision in TF-CBT. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for Children and Adolescents (CAPS-CA) assessed pre- and post-treatment served as the outcome variable in a linear mixed-effects model with therapists’ theoretical background, prior clinical experience and gender as independent variables, adjusted for patient gender, measurement time and country. The possibility of an interaction between therapist and patient gender was investigated subsequently.

Results: None of the therapist characteristics were significantly related to PTSS. There was no indication of an interaction between patient and therapist gender (p = .878).

Conclusion: The lack of evidence for a relationship of therapists’ theoretical orientation and clinical experience with outcome suggests that a wider dissemination of TF-CBT may be warranted. More studies with larger therapist and patient sample sizes and including only community practice are needed.

Keywords: therapist; Trauma; PTSD; children and adolescents; TF-CBT; gender match

Published online: 23 Jul 2020

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