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Study Says PTSD Therapy Helps Sexually-Abused Girls



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Mental health experts often use a treatment called "prolonged exposure therapy" to help soldiers returning from battle.

In prolonged exposure therapy, or PET, patients are asked to remember painful incidents and talk about the feelings. They repeat this process until these memories no longer make them suffer. PET can help soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

They developed emotional problems because of experiences in battle. PTSD is not limited to soldiers. It is also see in young women who were sexually abused or raped when they were children.

Edna Foa of the University of Pennsylvania helped to develop prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD. She believes the treatment can offer such girls a cure that lasts longer than what she calls "supportive counseling". She says PET gives them the skills they need to face the memories of their abuse.

Her research team compared prolonged exposure therapy to supportive counseling in a group of 60 sexually-abused girls. All the girls suffered from PTSD, and were 13 to 18 years old. Each girl saw a trained therapist 14 times. Some received PET. The other were given supportive counseling.

Doctor Foa says girls treated with PET experienced fewer symptoms and were less likely to suffer from depressions than the other girls. They also showed more improvement in quality of life measurements.

Dr. Foa says most of the girls treated with PET were thought to be free of PTSD. She adds that social workers can be trained in PET in just four days. A report on the study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.