Cognitive-behavior Therapy for PTSD in Rape Survivors

Published in: Journal of Clinical Psychology, v. 58, Iss. 8, Aug. 2002, p. 891-906

Posted on RAND.org on July 31, 2002

by Lisa H. Jaycox, Lori A. Zoellner, Edna B. Foa

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In recent years, new data have appeared, further suggesting the utility of cognitive-behavioral interventions for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) subsequent to sexual assault. In this article, we present a model of cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) for PTSD in rape survivors. Emotional-processing theory, which proposes mechanisms that underlie the development of disturbances following rape, is reviewed. A CBT-based therapy (Prolonged Exposure) is presented that entails education about common reactions to trauma, relaxation training, imaginal reliving of the rape memory, exposure to trauma reminders, and cognitive restructuring. Current research regarding the use of prolonged exposure is discussed. The case example of a young female rape survivor is described in detail, and her prior substance dependence and intense shame are highlighted. The therapy was successful in reducing the client's symptoms of PTSD, as well as her depressive symptoms, and these gains were maintained at a one-year follow-up assessment.

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