There is growing recognition that it is important to involve youth and caregivers in the implementation of evidence-based treatments (EBTs). This study explored how youth and caregivers who received trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) in a public behavioral health system perceived the concept of EBT, their experience with treatment, their perceptions of TF-CBT, and whether their perceptions varied as a function of clinical improvement.
Participants were eight youth (aged 10–17) and nine caregivers/legal guardians who received TF-CBT in community mental health centers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted post-treatment and symptoms were assessed at pre- and post-treatment. An integrated approach was used to analyze the interview data and the reliable change index was used to assess whether youth and caregivers’ impressions varied as a function of clinical improvement.
Participants rarely had exposure to the term “evidence-based” and often had the misconception that evidence referred to personal experience. Youth and caregivers found the concept of receiving treatment supported by research appealing but did not like the specific term “evidence-based” and worried that treatment guided by research alone may not individualize to their needs. Personal stories were noted as a good way to market TF-CBT and the therapist emerged as an important advocate for promoting this treatment approach. Clinical improvement was associated with the perception of therapists as collaborative and with trauma narrative completion.
Findings suggest that language and how therapists communicate EBTs to youth and caregivers may be important for targeted implementation strategies.