Sexual abuse is devastating for everyone, but perhaps even more so for children, adolescents and teenagers. In many cases, abuse that occurs in young children doesn’t manifest behaviorally until the child reaches her adolescent or teenage years. Unfortunately, the research demonstrates that a delay of this nature often results in more extreme symptoms. Group therapy has proven to be extremely effective in helping adolescents and teenagers overcome many of these challenges, and for developing crucial skills to help them continue their successful recovery process.
How Childhood Sexual Abuse Manifests in Teenagers
Many kids keep the unbearable secret of childhood sexual abuse to themselves due to fear. They may have been threatened or they may be afraid of rejection, stigmatization or disbelief from parents or other adults. In other cases, kids never tell because they want to forget about the abuse. Unless the issue is addressed, however, the burden will eventually manifest itself in some way. The most common disorders that appear as the result of childhood sexual abuse are depression, low-self esteem, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse or addiction, promiscuity and aggression. The most common developments for young women are self-destructive behaviors that include eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse and depression. Teen boys typically act out in ways that are labeled as delinquent, displaying a high level of aggression and engaging in risky behavior related to drugs, alcohol and sexual activity.
The Structure of Psychoeducational Group Therapy
Group intervention programs are typically offered either as closed or open groups. In a closed group, once the treatment program has started, no new group members are admitted. In an open group, new members can join at any point during the course of the program. Both approaches offer unique benefits, especially when the group is based on a psychoeducational approach. Psychoeducational therapy goes beyond the basic freeform discussion and sharing of emotions and experiences, providing participants with information and exercises designed to enhance their knowledge and understanding of relevant issues. Each structured session focuses on a specific theme or the development of individual competencies.
Proven Outcomes of Group Interventions
Scientific studies have repeatedly proven that group therapy reduces the negative consequences and trauma of sexual abuse in adolescents and teenagers. The supportive relationships established in the group setting mitigate the social isolation that characterizes many abuse victims and reduces feelings of shame and self-blame. Perhaps most important to the recovery process, group interventions improve teens’ personal resources and skills for coping with the emotional trauma of abuse.
Havenwood Academy uses group therapy as a key component of its residential treatment protocols. Offering programs for adolescent and teenage girls, Havenwood specializes in helping young women who have been the victims of sexual abuse.