Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS)

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. This program has been rated by the CEBC in the following Topic Areas:

About This Program

Target Population: 3rd through 8th grade students who screened positive for exposure to a traumatic event and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder related to that event, largely focusing on community violence exposure; may be used with older students as well

For children/adolescents ages: 8 – 15

Brief Description

CBITS is a school-based, group and individual intervention designed to reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and behavioral problems among students exposed to traumatic life events, such as exposure to community and school violence, accidents, physical abuse, and domestic violence. It is designed for students, who have experienced a traumatic event and have current distress related to that event. The goals of the intervention are to reduce symptoms and behavior problems and improve functioning, improve peer and parent support, and enhance coping skills. The program includes 10 student group sessions, 1-3 student individual sessions, 2 parent sessions, and a teacher educational session. Developed for the school setting in close collaboration with school personnel, the program is well suited to the school environment.

Program Goals:

The goals of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) are:

  • Reduce symptoms related to trauma exposure
  • Build skills and enhance resilience to stress
  • Build peer and caregiver support

Essential Components

The essential components of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) include:

  • Techniques based on cognitive and behavioral theories of adjustment to traumatic events delivered in an individual or group (with 6-10 participants) format:
    • Psycho-education
    • Relaxation
    • Social problem solving
    • Cognitive restructuring
    • Imaginal exposure
    • Exposure to trauma reminders
    • Development of a trauma narrative

Child/Adolescent Services

Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include re-experiencing the traumatic event (nightmares, flashbacks, recurrent thoughts), avoidance of trauma reminders (places, things, or memories of the trauma), heightened arousal (irritability, sleep problems, hypervigilence), and numbing of emotions
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The program includes extensive outreach to parents as well as 2 parent sessions to keep them informed about what is happening in the groups as well as to teach them some of the same skills as the child is learning.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • School


Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) includes a homework component:

The program uses activities to be practiced between sessions. Worksheets and handouts included with the manual.


Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Whiteboard, blackboard, or flipchart with markers
  • Private meeting room
  • Some specific materials required for sessions as detailed in the manual

Minimum Provider Qualifications

A Master’s or doctorate degree in a clinical field

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

Extensive training and implementation materials are available at no cost for registered users at Usually training is on-site. Some regional trainings are offered.

Number of days/hours:

2-day training, sometimes with ongoing consultation afterward

Implementation Information

Since Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) is rated on the Scientific Rating Scale, information was requested from the program representative on available pre-implementation assessments, implementation tools, and/or fidelity measures.

Show implementation information...

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) as listed below:

There is a readiness measure publicly available for download off of the website. They are free to registrants at

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) as listed below:

CBITS has a Trauma Services Adaptation Center for Schools funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that supports implementation, as well as a website that provides an online training course, ask-an-expert function, collaborative workspace, and many implementation tools.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) as listed below:

Fidelity measures are provided on the website as well, including those used in research studies and some used to monitor quality on an ongoing basis in the field. They are free to registrants at

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) as listed below:

There is a detailed manual with scripts and handouts available. You can download or purchase the CBITS manual. The CBITS manual for the entire course is available as a FREE download here: or you can purchase the paperback manual here:

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program is rated a "3 - Promising Research Evidence" on the Scientific Rating Scale based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The practice must have at least one study utilizing some form of control (e.g., untreated group, placebo group, matched wait list study) establishing the practice's benefit over the placebo, or found it to be comparable to or better than an appropriate comparison practice. Please see the Scientific Rating Scale for more information.

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Show relevant research...

Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott, M. N. & Fink, A. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence:  A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(5), 603-11.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 126


  • Age — 10-12 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Latino
  • Gender — 56% Female and 44% Male
  • Status — Participants were sixth-grade students with exposure to violence and clinical levels of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Location/Institution: 2 large East Los Angeles middle schools

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study evaluated the effectiveness of a collaboratively designed school-based intervention for reducing children’s symptoms of PTSD and depression resulting from exposure to violence. Students were randomly assigned to a 10-session standardized early intervention group, the Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), or to a wait-list delayed intervention comparison group. Students and teachers completed questionnaires at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months. Measures used included the Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS), Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI), Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC), and the Teacher-Child Rating Scale (TCRS). All children eventually participated in the intervention at some point during the academic year. Results at 3 months indicated that students assigned to the intervention had significantly lower scores of PTSD, depression, and psychosocial dysfunction than the children in the wait list group, but no significant differences were detected for teacher-reported classroom problems in acting out, shyness/anxiousness, or learning. Results at 6 months, when both groups had received the intervention, indicated no significant differences between groups. Study limitations included possible symptom detection and definition discrepancies among teachers, and lack of blinding to condition.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Approximately 14 weeks for the early intervention group. None for delayed intervention control group.

Kataoka, S., Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Wong, M., Escudero, P., Tu, W., Zaragoza, C., & Fink, A. (2003). Effectiveness of a school-based mental health program for traumatized Latino immigrant children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(3), 311-318.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest control group design
Number of Participants: 198


  • Age — Third through eighth grade (Approximately 7-14 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 100% Hispanic
  • Gender — 50% Male and 50% Female
  • Status — Participants were in third through eighth grade with trauma-related depression and/or posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Location/Institution: Nine public Los Angeles elementary and middle schools

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study objective was to pilot-test a school mental health program for Latino immigrant students exposed to community violence. The intervention consisted of a manual-based, eight-session, group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered in Spanish based on the Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS). Parents and teachers were eligible to receive psychoeducation and support services. Measures used included a modified 34-item version of the Life Events Scale, Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS), and the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI). Results indicated that students in the intervention group had significantly greater improvement in posttraumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms compared with those on the waitlist at 3-month follow-up. Limitations included modest symptom changes that remained in the clinical range at follow-up and that only a portion of the participants were randomized.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 3 months.

Morsette, A., Swaney, G., Stolle, D., Schuldberg, D., van den Pol, R. & Young, M. (2009). Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS):  School-based treatment on a rural American Indian reservation.  Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 40, 169-178.

Type of Study: Series of within-subjects designs
Number of Participants: 4


  • Age — 11-12 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Native American
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were Native American adolescents with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms.

Location/Institution: Two schools on or near a Montana reservation

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study examined preliminary data from a school-based intervention, Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) to evaluate its effectiveness in a Native American community. Students completed the Life Events Scale (LES), Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS), and Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) at screening, pretest and posttest. Efforts to adapt CBITS in reservation schools included inviting Native elders and healers to participate in the intervention. Results indicated that three of the four students decreased substantially on PTSD or depressive symptoms. Limitations included lack of control/comparison group and small sample size.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Jaycox, L. H., Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., Walker, D. W., Langley, A. K., Scott, M., & Schonlau, M. (2010). Children’s access to mental health care following Hurricane Katrina within a randomized field trial of trauma-focused psychotherapies. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23(2): 223-231.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 118


  • Age — 9-15.5 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 52% African American, 42% Caucasian, 4% Hispanic, and 2% Other
  • Gender — 63% Female and 37% Male
  • Status — Participants were children in three schools with elevated Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms assessed 15 months following Hurricane Katrina.

Location/Institution: Three New Orleans schools and Mercy Family Center’s Metairie, Louisiana clinic

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study randomized students with PTSD symptoms post-Hurricane Katrina into one of two trauma-specific interventions: Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Students completed the Disaster Experiences Questionnaire, UCLA PTSD Reaction Index, Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS), Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI), Social Support Scale for Children (SSSC), Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and the PTSD section of the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age Children-Present and Lifetime Version (K-SADS-PL-PTSD). Children reported on hurricane exposure, lifetime trauma exposure, peer and parent support, PTSD, and depressive symptoms. Teachers reported on behavior. At baseline, 60.5% screened positive for PTSD symptoms and were offered a group intervention at school or individual treatment at a mental health clinic. Uptake of the mental health care was uneven across intervention groups, with 98% beginning the school intervention, compared to 37% beginning at the clinic. Results indicated that both treatments led to significant symptom reduction of PTSD symptoms, but many still had elevated PTSD symptoms at post-treatment. Limitations included a smaller than anticipated sample size, limiting analyses methods.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 4-5 months for CBITS groups, 1 month for TF-CBT groups.


Feldman, E. (2007). Implementation of the cognitive behavioral intervention for trauma in schools (CBITS) with Spanish-speaking, immigrant middle-school students: Is effective, culturally competent treatment possible within a public school setting? Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 68, 1325.

Schultz, D., Barnes-Proby, D., Chandra, A., Jaycox, L. H., Maher, E. & Pecora, P. (2010). Toolkit for Adapting Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) or Supporting Students Exposed to Trauma (SSET) for Implementation with Youth in Foster Care.  TR722.  Santa Monica, CA:  RAND Corporation. Available at

Stein, B. D., Elliott, M. N., Tu, W., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., & Fink, A. (2003). School-based intervention for children exposed to violence: Reply. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(19), 2542.

Contact Information

Lisa Jaycox, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: RAND Corporation
Phone: (703) 413-1100 x5118

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2015

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2017

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2011