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Controversy exists about the efficacy of psychotherapy for the mental health problems of sexually abused children.
To compare the relative efficacy of focused individual or group therapy in symptomatic sexually abused girls, and to monitor psychiatric symptoms for persistence or change.
A multi-centre psychotherapy outcome study recruited 71 sexually abused girls aged 6–14 years who were randomly assigned to focused individual psychotherapy (up to 30 sessions) or psychoeducational group therapy (up to 18 sessions). Changes over the course of the study were monitored.
Both treatment groups showed a substantial reduction in psychopathological symptoms and an improvement in functioning, but with no evident difference between individual and group therapy. However, individual therapy led to a greater improvement in manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The beneficial effects on PTSD support the use of individual therapy. However, the small sample size and lack of a control group limit conclusions about changes attributable to treatment.
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