Duration of Group Therapy Influences Outcome for Sexual Abuse Survivors

Women who have survived childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are at increased risk for many negative psychological problems. Survivors have higher rates of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress (PTSD), sexual dysfunction, and negative self-esteem than people with no history of CSA. Therapy designed to help these vulnerable women provides strategies for learning healthy coping techniques and cognitive behaviors. Group therapy is especially beneficial for women who have survived CSA because it gives them the opportunity to share their experiences with others who can relate to their trauma. Group sessions have been shown to dramatically reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Additionally, women who participate in group therapy for CSA demonstrate improved self-esteem and lower levels of shame and guilt than those who do not participate in group sessions.

Although there have been many studies assessing the effectiveness of group therapy for CSA, few have looked at how the duration and intensity of the sessions impact the outcome. In an effort to discover how length of therapy affects symptom severity, Dr. Maryhelen Kreidler, professor of Nursing at the College of Nursing at the University of Akron in Ohio recently led a study that analyzed the psychological outcomes of women who underwent 6 months of group therapy compared to women who received 12 months of group therapy. Each group met once a week for 2 hours, and all the participants had experienced several years of CSA that began when they were 6 years old.

Kreidler discovered that the women from the 6-month group had greater gains than those in the longer treatment group. This suggests that more intense and focused therapy provides more benefits to women who have survived CSA. Kreidler said, “The current study appears to be the first study to suggest that the shorter, more intensive therapy is actually better in producing positive outcomes.” Shorter therapy duration could minimize the opportunity for women to withdraw, escape, and avoid their emotions. In other words, women who receive more intense treatment may not have the chance to move away from treatment techniques and fall back into maladaptive coping strategies. Kreidler believes that these findings could help therapists design more effective interventions for women who have survived CSA.

Reference:
Kreidler, M., Einsporn, R. (2012). A comparative study of therapy duration for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 50.4, 26-32.

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  • chancellor

    chancellor

    June 2nd, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    I can agree with this. I know that when I am really committed to something, I like to goa ll out and get it accomplished in a shorter amount of time. Sounds like this could be the same thing. Group therapy I am sure can be wonderful for many survivors of abuse. There are others who are with you who can understand in a very personal way exactly how and what you are feeling. It is not like someone who has never gone through this before trying to give you pointers on how to get over the trauma. But no one wants to relive this forever. So why not try this method of going at it hot and heavy for a shorter amount of time and then going out on your won to become the person you were meant to be?

  • Verna

    Verna

    June 2nd, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    How can you be sure it is the duration and not the group leader who makes the recovery more of a success?

  • cathy

    cathy

    June 2nd, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    you may give me that treatment and you may take good care of me.but my inner self will take a long time to recover, especially if I have been denied the first aid at the time!

    childhood abuse is not uncommon and the first and foremost thing to do when reported by such a thing from your child is to seek help and tell them how it is not their mistake.that will be the first aid!

  • Addie

    Addie

    June 3rd, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    I have to say that I am a little surprised by these findings. I think that I have always thought that the better therapy would be that which lasts, that which you do for a long time and really get to the meat of the issue. I would have thought that the shorter terms of therapy might be a little too intense for me and might not give me the time that I needed to adequately tell my story and figure out all the myriad of ways that my story has affected me.

  • mary

    mary

    June 4th, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    short and sweet vs long and prolonged? I can relate to that

  • joshua

    joshua

    June 4th, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    So how do you think that this plays out for men who are in treatment for sexual abuse? I know that the findings are probably pretty comparable, but I would be curious to know if things would be viewed a little differently by make participants.

  • Cason

    Cason

    June 6th, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Wow I think that this goes against everything that I have ever thought about therapy and the role that it plays in the lives of those who are in therapy. Naturally, I have always assumed, incorrectly I see, that the longer you are in therapy then the better your chances are that you can heal from the pain that you are looking to leave behind. I now see that it is probably about more than the time that you have devoted to this, but rather more about how much you can get out of the situation while you are actively involved in it.

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