This therapy works for women with past sexual trauma

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Women who faced sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence benefit significantly from a kind of therapy that focuses on reducing psychological distress through resolving interpersonal conflicts and strengthening social relationships, according to a new study.

These women constitute more than 20 percent of female patients in publicly funded community mental health centers.

Researchers compared the results of treating depressed women with sexual abuse histories with either interpersonal psychotherapy-trauma or traditional clinic psychotherapy.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, included 162 women, and found that interpersonal psychotherapy-trauma reduced symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and improved social health when clinicians followed up 8 and 20 months later.

Sexual abuse is all too common, affects girls and boys, and is typically shrouded in secrecy. In the study, one in five women seeking treatment in the community mental health center had a history of sexual abuse before age 18, with some as young as five years old. Researchers modified the therapy for women who had histories of trauma, few social resources, and who faced stigma for seeking mental health care.

“We need to make sure that community mental health centers are aware of these therapies, especially for the disenfranchised and those living in poverty,” says Paul Duberstein, professor at Rutgers School of Public Health, who conducted the study with professor Nancy Talbot while at the University of Rochester.

“The good news is that interpersonal psychotherapy-trauma can easily be integrated into community mental health clinics by training the existing clinical staff,” Duberstein says.

Source: Rutgers University