Effectiveness of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Among Trauma-Affected Children in Lusaka, Zambia: A Randomized Clinical Trial


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are at high risk for experiencing trauma and related psychosocial problems. Despite this, no randomized clinical trials have studied evidence-based treatments for OVC in low-resource settings. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of lay counselor-provided trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) to address trauma and stress-related symptoms among OVC in Lusaka, Zambia. This randomized clinical trial compared TF-CBT and treatment as usual (TAU) (varying by site) for children recruited from August 1, 2012, through July 31, 2013, and treated until December 31, 2013, for trauma-related symptoms from 5 community sites within Lusaka, Zambia. Children were aged 5 through 18 years and had experienced at least one traumatic event and reported significant trauma-related symptoms. Analysis was with intent to treat. The intervention group received 10 to 16 sessions of TF-CBT (n = 131). The TAU group (n = 126) received usual community services offered to OVC. The primary outcome was mean item change in trauma and stress-related symptoms using a locally validated version of the UCLA Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index (range, 0-4) and functional impairment using a locally developed measure (range, 0-4). Outcomes were measured at baseline and within 1 month after treatment completion or after a waiting period of approximately 4.5 months after baseline for TAU. At follow-up, the mean item change in trauma symptom score was -1.54 (95% CI, -1.81 to -1.27), a reduction of 81.9%, for the TF-CBT group and -0.37 (95% CI, -0.57 to -0.17), a reduction of 21.1%, for the TAU group. The mean item change for functioning was -0.76 (95% CI, -0.98 to -0.54), a reduction of 89.4%, and -0.54 (95% CI, -0.80 to -0.29), a reduction of 68.3%, for the TF-CBT and TAU groups, respectively. The difference in change between groups was statistically significant for both outcomes (P < .001). The effect size (Cohen d) was 2.39 for trauma symptoms and 0.34 for functioning. Lay counselors participated in supervision and assessed whether the intervention was provided with fidelity in all 5 community settings. The TF-CBT adapted for Zambia substantially decreased trauma and stress-related symptoms and produced a smaller improvement in functional impairment among OVC having experienced high levels of trauma.

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