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A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Psychotherapy with Adults Sexually Abused in Childhood

NCJ Number
Clinical Psychology Review Volume: 30 Issue: 6 Dated: 2010 Pages: 749-767
Joanne E. Taylor; Shane T. Harvey
Date Published
19 pages

The authors of this report present a meta-analysis of the effect of psychotherapy for adults who have experienced sexual abuse, addressing the limitations of previous quantitative reviews.


This paper presents the results of a meta-analysis of the treatment outcome studies of different types of psychotherapeutic approaches for adults sexually abused as children. There were 44 studies included, comprising 59 treatment conditions, and most of the studies aimed to treat the psychological effects of childhood sexual abuse. Separate meta-analyses were conducted according to study design and outcome domain, in keeping with meta-analytic conventions. For most outcome domains, there was remarkable consistency in overall effect sizes across study design. Effect sizes were predominantly of moderate magnitude for post-traumatic stress disorder or trauma symptoms (g = 0.72–0.77), internalizing symptoms (g = 0.68–0.72), externalizing symptoms (g = 0.41–0.53), self-esteem (g = 0.56–0.58), and global functioning or symptoms (g = 0.57–0.60). Studies measuring interpersonal functioning outcomes had inconsistent effect sizes across study design. Effects were largely maintained at follow-up, although relatively few studies provided follow-up data. A number of moderating variables were examined given the inherent heterogeneity of the studies. Moderator analysis revealed a variety of variables, particularly treatment characteristics, that were associated with better outcomes. However, different variables were identified for the diverse outcomes that were measured, emphasizing the importance of moderator analysis in looking beyond overall treatment effects to ascertain specific elements that confer additional benefit in therapy for the diverse psychological effects of child sexual abuse. Publisher Abstract Provided