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Culturally adapting Cognitive Therapy for complicated PTSD

Dr Sharif El- Leithy

Thursday, 20 March 2025


In this brand new training, Sharif will be unpacking what it means to be culturally competent when treating complicated PTSD. Using the cognitive model of PTSD (Ehlers & Clark, 2000) and based on real clinical examples, they will demonstrate how to formulate and adapt treatment in a culturally competent way. A common criticism of CBT is that it was developed and tested predominantly with members of majority groups, i.e., white, English-speaking, able-bodied, cisgender, neurotypical adults under 65 years old. In the field of PTSD, there is some evidence of efficacy of trauma-focused psychological therapies with specific minority groups, such as refugees (Thompson et al., 2018) but little systematic data beyond case studies with other groups typically excluded from research trials. 

We will talk about complicated PTSD rather than Complex PTSD as defined by ICD-11 since this only covers certain additional symptoms, whereas complicated PTSD makes us think more broadly about issues which may complicate treatment. 

The event will be equivalent to 5.1/2hrs of CPD.


The experiential workshop will help participants to consider cultural issues when working with their PTSD clients. For example, how to include them in the formulation, how to work with people with a different culture to your own, how to adapt aspects of CT-PTSD to meet your client’s needs, how to overcome obstacles associated with complicated PTSD such as dissociation and working with multiple traumas and issues like working with interpreters.

Sharif and Hannah will present real life (anonymised) to illustrate these skills, show video of the techniques in action and invite the participants to consider their own past and present clients in light of what they are learning.

Learning Objectives

• To understand what we mean by cultural competency in the CBT framework.
• To consider how their assessments may be shaped by cultural issues.
• To learn how to formulate PTSD clients in a culturally competent way.
• To learn about adaptations to CT-PTSD that fit with a client’s culture and belief system.
• To understand how to overcome barriers in complicated PTSD.

Training Modalities

We will use a range of training modalities, including didactic teaching, answering your questions as we go, videos of real clients as well as role-played interactions, and polling.

Key References

‘Diversity’, in ‘Working with Complexity in PTSD’, Murray & El-Leithy (2022). Routledge.

‘Working with diversity in CBT’ (El-Leithy) in ‘How to become a more effective CBT therapist’ (2014) Whittington, A., & Grey, N. (Eds.). John Wiley & Sons.

Rathod, S., Phiri, P., & Naeem, F. (2019). An evidence-based framework to culturally adapt cognitive behaviour therapy. The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, 12, e10.

Costa, B. (2022). Interpreter-mediated CBT–a practical implementation guide for working with spoken language interpreters. the Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, 15, e8.

About the presenter

Dr Sharif El-Leithy is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and clinical lead of the Traumatic Stress Service, London. He specialises in psychological reactions to life-threatening traumas and was a member of the NICE (2018) PTSD guideline update committee. He has over 20 years of experience in using cognitive-behavioural therapy to treat PTSD arising from complex traumatic experiences, including victims of war, torture, domestic and childhood abuse. He is co-author of the clinical handbook, "Working with complexity in PTSD: a cognitive therapy approach", Routledge (2022).

Who should attend

Anyone who works with PTSD, but be aware this is working with complexity in PTSD, so probably best suited to HI therapists, clinical and counselling psychologists and those who work in specialist trauma services.

Details coming soon

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