Judith Cohen is a contemporary psychiatrist and the creator of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT).

Professional Life

Judith A. Cohen is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a professor of psychiatry at Drexel University College of Medicine, and the Medical Director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children & Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Cohen conducted years of research on the treatment of children who have experienced childhood trauma and worked with colleagues Esther Deblinger, PhD, and Anthony Mannarino, PhD, to test the effectiveness of  trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). Together, they published Treating Trauma and Traumatic Grief in Children and Adolescents in  2006, and Trauma-Focused CBT for Children and Adolescents Treatment Applications in 2012. Cohen continues to research the effects a family member's trauma has on the family unit. She also maintains an active private practice.

Over the years, Cohen and Mannarino have received funding for their research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), the U.S. Department of Justice Cohen, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Cohen has received numerous awards for her work with children, including the Rieger Award for Scientific Achievement in 2004 from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the Outstanding Professional Award in 2000 from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, where she once served on the board of directors. She currently sits on the board of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and has authored many reports and articles outlining the procedures for treating children with posttraumatic stress. In addition, Cohen has consulted on television specials with Sesame Workshop that address bereavement for children.

Contribution to Psychology

Cohen is the creator of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping patients identify, reframe, and replace negative and self-defeating thought patterns. However, Cohen found that traditional CBT did not fully address trauma, particularly in children, and she developed TF-CBT to improve upon CBT's deficits in the treatment of trauma. 

TF-CBT can be used with victims of childhood trauma as well as their parents or caretakers. The aim of TF-CBT is to lessen the impact of the traumatic event and to eliminate negative behaviors that arise from it. Children are encouraged to talk openly about the traumatic event and to learn how to process the event in a way that does not compromise psychological health or emotional regulation. Parents and caretakers are also given tools for understanding the impact of the trauma and mitigating its effects on the child and family. 

TF-CBT combines humanistic and familial techniques with traditional cognitive behavioral applications to provide emotional and psychological support and transformation to anyone affected by a traumatic event. Children and family members learn how to accurately and positively process and understand the events that have occurred and are taught how to cope with negative mood states as a result of the event. TF-CBT has been shown to be especially effective in adolescents who have suffered one traumatic event or repeated episodes of abuse. TF-CBT is also helpful for those dealing with accepting the death of a loved one.