Survivors of childhood trauma are at increased risk of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). The Recovering from Child Abuse Programme (RCAP) is a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) group promoting adaptive coping strategies which may help overcome CPTSD symptoms in adult survivors of childhood trauma. We sought to explore patient experiences of factors influencing treatment acceptability and potential mechanisms of therapeutic change in a sample of participants in the RCAP programme. As the group was delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating a transition to remote therapy, we further aimed to capture experiences of the transition to telehealth delivery of the programme. A naturalistic sample of 10 women with CPTSD attending a specialist out-patient psychological trauma service participated in the study. Therapy sessions were recorded, transcribed verbatim and group members completed written feedback forms following each session. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse the written feedback and transcripts. The RCAP was acceptable to group members and several themes were identified related to the experience of change in the group. Key themes centred on group solidarity; safety in the psychotherapeutic process; schema changes related to the self, others and future catalysed by the shifting of self-blame; increased emotional regulation to feel safer in the present; and increased future optimism. Therapeutic progress continued following the transition to telehealth, although face-to-face delivery was generally preferred. The programme was acceptable and led to cognitive change, enabling increased emotional regulation in the present and improved self-concept, thereby addressing key symptoms of CPTSD.
Key learning aims
(1) To identify potential mechanisms of therapeutic change related to participation in the Recovery from Childhood Abuse group CBT intervention.
(2) To understand factors influencing acceptability of the group intervention among women with CPTSD to childhood sexual abuse.