A new developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy specializing on the situations and needs of teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21 promises to improve care for this targeted group. German researchers developed the approach to improve both short and long-term outcomes for children who have suffered sexual or physical abuse.
Currently, about four to 16 percent of children in Western countries experience physical abuse; the percentage that experiences sexual abuse is between five and ten percent. Tragically, victims suffer in many areas of their lives including an increased risk for mental illness, especially post-traumatic stress disorder.
Victims of abuse often develop stressful symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety, sleep disorders and irritability. Things and situations that recall the traumatic events are often avoided. However, early treatment can help prevent long-term consequences.
The team, led by Dr Regina Steil at the Institute of Psychology at Goethe University, developed a developmentally adapted cognitive processing therapy specializing on the situations and needs of teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21.
The protocol consists of 26 to 30 sessions over four to five months and is subdivided into four treatment phases.
After a period of getting to know the therapist, the teens first learn to regulate their emotions and apply strategies for dealing with stress. Only after this do they begin to process their thoughts and feelings about the sexual or physical abuse and gradually regain a sense of security and control.
A study has demonstrated that this new form of psychotherapy effectively reduces psychological stress.
The study, which appears in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Psychiatry, was led by Professor Rita Rosner, Chair for Clinical and Biological Psychology at the Catholic University Eichstätt.
In the study, the young patients were randomly assigned either to the new psychotherapy or to a treatment that is usual in Germany. The control group was given the option to be treated according to the new therapy once the study was completed.
Toward the end of the therapy, or waiting period, the groups were compared with regard to psychological stress. The group that received the new therapy demonstrated significantly fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than the control group.
These differences were still evident three months after therapy conclusion.
“The successful clinical trial of this new treatment represents an important step toward improving the treatment situation of traumatized youth and teens,” explains Dr. Steil.
Source: Goethe University Frankfurt