A recent study found that the same type of therapy that has been proven best for PTSD seen in soldiers returning from war can be effective in treating PTSD in adolescent girls who have been victims of sexual violence.
A single-blind, randomized clinical trial comparing prolonged exposure (PE) therapy to supportive counseling in girls age 13 to 18 found the former to be superior in treating PTSD.
In the study, PE was administered in 14, 60- to 90-minute sessions. The main outcome measure was PTSD symptoms, which were assessed several times from the start of treatment up through 12 months following the completion of treatment.
At all points, PE was superior to supportive counseling on all measures. At the end of the study period, 83% of girls in the PE group no longer met criteria for PTSD; the same was true for only 54% of the supportive counseling group (Foa EB et al, JAMA 2013;310(24):2650–2657).
Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive therapy that involves gradually exposing patients to “triggers” related to their trauma and having them recount their trauma in order to help them gain control over the fear that the experience has caused them. Interestingly, the girls randomized to the supportive counseling group were offered the opportunity to talk directly about their trauma, but none chose to do so.An editorial accompanying the articlesaid some therapists may be reluctant to use this method in such young women because of fear it will cause even more trauma. But in fact, they say, this is the most effective way to treat girls who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse.
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