Teens that have experienced sexual assault benefit more from therapy sessions that include recounting the assault than from counseling that does not address the assault.
Exposure treatment has had success being used to treat adults that have experienced sexual trauma, though the treatment has not been widely used to treat adolescent survivors of sexual assault. Exposure therapy has not widely been used for treating young sexual assault survivors, due to concern that their coping skills may not be fully developed. If a survivor has adequate coping skills, exposure therapy may be beneficial for helping to treat psychiatric disorders that may have arisen as a result of their trauma.
PTSD is most common in young adults that have been sexually assaulted, and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have modified a form of exposure therapy that has been tailored to treat teens and adolescents. The 61 young women in the study received 14 counseling sessions lasting 30-60 minutes, and underwent a year follow-up after therapy was completed. The teens who were receiving exposure therapy showed a greater decrease in the severity of the PTSD symptoms than those who were only receiving standard therapeutic treatment.
Counselors that were interested in learning how to implement the program received four days of extensive hands-on training from the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Teenagers that successfully completed their exposure therapy treatment regime found that two thirds of the girls in the study no longer met the clinical requirements for PTSD, compared with 37% who underwent traditional therapy treatments.
Most studies of PTSD treatment have been conducted on adolescents who live in violent or stressful situations. Young adults who are living in traumatic situations can experience a variety of psychiatric disorders as a result of any triggers which may be present in their current living situation. These not only include PTSD, but can also include anxiety disorder, panic attacks, depression, and agoraphobia. Post traumatic stress disorder can cause a disruption in school or social activities, as triggers can be unpredictable.
Young adults that received exposure therapy found that their improvements were sustained over one year period. These adolescents also reported improvement in their overall function, a greater overall decline in symptoms, and lessening in depression symptoms and anxiety. At-risk youth have a greater risk of being sexually assaulted, and can greatly benefit from exposure therapy. Therapists and counselors that are interested in training for the program can obtain more information from the article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Exposure therapy as a treatment option for young adults who have experienced sexual trauma may be still undergoing observation, but therapists can help teens that have PTSD as a result experience significant benefits with this treatment option becoming available to them.