Children who have been sexually abused bear a heavy burden. Many of these children must cope with depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Behavior problems are also quite common. The consequences of child sexual abuse continue into adulthood. Adults who were sexually abused as children have a higher risk of substance abuse. They attempt suicide and become rape victims more often than people who did not have these experiences as children.
In order to help these children and prevent negative outcomes in the future, a number of treatments have been developed. Studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a promising intervention. In CBT, the patient learns to recognize the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This article concerns a specific form of CBT called Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). It compares the results of treatment for a group of children treated with TF-CBT and a group treated with a different therapy, called Child-Centered Therapy.
After twelve weeks of treatment, the children receiving Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy were doing much better than those being treated with Child-Centered Therapy. Their symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression had been reduced, and they had fewer behavioral problems. Their parents, who had participated in the treatment with their children, were also less distressed and more supportive of their children. Their parenting practices had improved as well.