The Effectiveness of Psychoeducation and Brief Treatments in the Aftermath of Sexual Assault

  • Catalina Vechiu
  • Martha Zimmermann


Recent estimates indicate that roughly 20% of US adult women and 1.7% of men report being raped during their lifetime and an estimated 1.6% of women report being raped in the previous 12 months (Breiding et al., Surveillance Summaries, 63:1–18, 2014b). Sexual assault victimization is associated with higher rates of revictimization, interpersonal difficulties, and social stigma. Survivors of sexual assault are also at an increased risk of abusing alcohol and drugs, even among those who did not abuse substances prior to the assault (Kilpatrick et al., Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 65:834, 1997a). As such, there is an impetus to develop brief and evidence-based interventions that target the unique constellation of challenges faced by sexual assault victims. The aim of this chapter is to examine the available support for brief treatments and psychoeducational interventions in the aftermath of trauma and discuss limitations and future directions for research.


Brief treatment Psychoeducation Sexual assault Stepped care Intervention 


  1. Acierno, R., Resnick, H. S., Flood, A., & Holmes, M. (2003). An acute post-rape intervention to prevent substance use and abuse. Addictive Behaviors, 28(9), 1701–1715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahrens, C. E., Stansell, J., & Jennings, A. (2010). To tell or not to tell: The impact of disclosure on sexual assault survivors’ recovery. Violence and Survivors, 25(5), 631–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bower, P., & Gilbody, S. (2005). Stepped care in psychological therapies: Access, effectiveness and efficiency: Narrative literature review. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(1), 11–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bramsen, R. H., Lasgaard, M., Koss, M. P., Elklit, A., & Banner, J. (2012). Adolescent sexual victimization: A prospective study on risk factors for first time sexual assault. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 21(9), 521–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Breiding, M. J., Chen J., & Black, M. C. (2014). Intimate partner violence in the United States — 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from
  6. Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Basile, K. G., Walters, M. L., Chen, J., & Merrick, M. T. (2014). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. Surveillance Summaries, 63(SS08), 1–18.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Breslau, N., Davis, G. C., Andreski, P., Peterson, E. L., & Schultz, L. R. (1997). Sex differences in posttraumatic stress disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 54, 1044–1048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryant, R. A., Harvey, A. G., Dang, S. T., Sackville, T., & Basten, C. (1998). Treatment of acute stress disorder: A comparison of cognitive-behavioral therapy and supportive counseling. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(5), 862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bryant, R. A., Sackville, T., Dang, S. T., Moulds, M., & Guthrie, R. (1999). Treating acute stress disorder: An evaluation of cognitive behavior therapy and supportive counseling techniques. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(11), 1780–1786.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Centers for Disease Control. (2011). National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from Scholar
  11. Creighton, C. D., & Jones, A. C. (2012). Psychological profiles of adult sexual assault victims. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 19, 35–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis, J. L., Resnick, H. S., & Swopes, R. M. (2011). Psychoeducation to reduce distress and promote adaptive coping among adult women following sexual assault. Surviving sexual violence: A guide to recovery and empowerment, (pp. 256–275).Google Scholar
  13. Delisi, M., Kosloski, A., Sween, M., Hachmeister, E., Moore, M., & Drury, A. (2010). Murder by numbers: Monetary costs imposed by a sample of homicide offenders. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 21, 501–513. Scholar
  14. Devilly, G. J., Gist, R., & Cotton, P. (2006). Ready! Fire! Aim! The status of psychological debriefing and therapeutic interventions: In the work place and after disasters. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Draper, C., & O’Donohue, W. T. (2011). Stepped care and e-health: Practical applications to behavioral disorders. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dworkin, E. R., & Schumacher, J. A. (2016). Preventing posttraumatic stress related to sexual assault through early intervention: A systematic review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 19, 459. Scholar
  17. Foa, E. B. (2011). Prolonged exposure therapy: Past, present, and future. Depression and Anxiety, 28(12), 1043–1047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Foa, E. B., Hearst-Ikeda, D., & Perry, K. J. (1995). Evaluation of a brief cognitive-behavioral program for the prevention of chronic PTSD in recent assault survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63(6), 948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Foa, E. B., Zoellner, L. A., & Feeny, N. C. (2006). An evaluation of three brief programs for facilitating recovery after assault. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 19(1), 29–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frank, E., Anderson, B., Stewart, B. D., Dancu, C., Hughes, C., & West, D. (1988). Efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy and systematic desensitization in the treatment of rape trauma. Behavior Therapy, 19(3), 403–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ghafoori, B., Fisher, D. G., Korestelova, O., & Hong, M. (2016). A randomized, controlled pilot study of a single-session psychoeducation treatment for urban, culturally-diverse, trauma-exposed adults. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204(6), 421–430. Scholar
  22. Gould, M., Greenberg, N. & Hetherton, J. (2007). Stigma and the military: Evaluation of a PTSD psychoeducational program. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20, 505–515.Google Scholar
  23. Hembree, E. A., Foa, E. B., Dorfan, N. M., Street, G. P., Kowalski, J., & Tu, X. (2003). Do patients drop out prematurely from exposure therapy for PTSD? Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16(6), 555–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jorm, A. F., Korten, A. E., Jacomb, P. A., Christensen, H., Rodgers, B., & Pollitt, P. (1997). Mental health literacy: A survey of the public's ability to recognise mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of treatment. Medical Journal of Australia, 166, 182–186.Google Scholar
  25. Kessler, R. C., Chiu, W. T., Demler, O., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 617–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kessler, R. C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C. B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048–1060. Scholar
  27. Kilpatrick, D. G. (2000). Rape and sexual assault. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, Medical University of South Carolina.Google Scholar
  28. Kilpatrick, D. G., Acierno, R., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., & Best, C. L. (1997a). A 2-year longitudinal analysis of the relationships between violent assault and substance use in women. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kilpatrick, D. G., Acierno, R., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., & Best, C. L. (1997b). The relationship between assault and alcohol, marijuana, and hard drug use in women. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 834–847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kilpatrick, D. G., Cougle, J. R., & Resnick, H. R. (2008). Reports of the death of psychoeducation as a preventative treatment for posttraumatic psychological distress are exaggerated. Psychiatry, 71(4), 322–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., Milanak, M. E., Miller, M. W., Keyes, K. M., & Friedman, M. J. (2013). National estimates of exposure to traumatic events and PTSD prevalence using DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26, 537–547. Scholar
  32. Koss, M. P., Gidycz, C. A., & Wisniewski, N. (1987). The scope of rape: Incidence and prevalence of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 162–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Krupnick, J. L., & Green, B. L. (2008). Psychoeducation to prevent PTSD: A paucity of evidence. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 71(4), 329–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kilpatrick, D. G., and Veronen, L. J. (1984).Treatment of Fear and Anxiety in Victims of Rape (Final Report, Grant No. R01 MH29602), National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, MD.Google Scholar
  35. Krouse, H.J. (2001). Video modelling to educate patients. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 33, 748–757.Google Scholar
  36. Lewinsohn, P. M., & Graf, M. (1973). Pleasant activities and depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41, 261–268.Google Scholar
  37. Lubin, H., Loris, M., Burt, J., & Johnson, D. R. (1998). Efficacy of psychoeducational group therapy in reducing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder among multiply traumatized women. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155(9), 1172–1177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mendenhall, A. N., Fristad, M. A., & Early, T. J. (2009). Factors influencing service utilization and mood symptom severity in children with mood disorders: Effects of multifamily psychoeducation groups (MFPGs). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 463–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miller, K. E., Cranston, C. C., Davis, J. L., Newman, E., & Resnick, H. (2015). Psychological outcomes after a sexual assault video intervention: A randomized trial. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 11, 129–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Miller, T. R., Cohen, M. A., & Wiersema, B. (1996). Victim costs and consequences: A new look (NCJ 155282). The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from
  41. Najdowski, C. J., & Ullman, S. E. (2009). Prospective effects of sexual victimization on PTSD and problem drinking. Addictive Behaviors, 34, 965–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peterson, C., DeGue, S., Florence, C., & Lokey, C. N. (2017). Lifetime economic burden of rape among U.S. adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 52(6), 691–701. Scholar
  43. Phoenix, B. J. (2007). Psychoeducation for survivors of trauma. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 43(3), 123–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pietrzak, R. H., Goldstein, R. B., Southwick, S. M., & Grant, B. F. (2011). Prevalence and Axis I comorbidity of full and partial posttraumatic stress disorder in the United States: Results from wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on alcohol and related conditions. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25, 456–465. Scholar
  45. Price, M., Davidson, T. M., Ruggiero, K. J., Acierno, R., & Resnick, H. S. (2014). Predictors of using mental health services after sexual assault. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 27(3), 331–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rennison, C. A. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992–2000 [NCJ 194530]. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from
  47. Resnick, H., Acierno, R., Holmes, M., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Jager, N. (1999). Prevention of post-rape psychopathology: Preliminary findings of a controlled acute rape treatment study. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13(4), 359–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Resnick, H., Acierno, R., Waldrop, A. E., King, L., King, D., Danielson, C., … Kilpatrick, D. (2007). Randomized controlled evaluation of an early intervention to prevent post-rape psychopathology. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45(10), 2432–2447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Resnick, H. S., Acierno, R., Amstadter, A. B., Self-Brown, S., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2007). An acute post-sexual assault intervention to prevent drug abuse: Updated findings. Addictive Behaviors, 32(10), 2032–2045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rothbaum, B. O., Foa, E. B., Riggs, D. S., Murdock, T., & Walsh, W. (1992). A prospective evaluation of post-traumatic stress disorder in rape victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5, 455–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rose, S., Bisson, J., Churchill, R., & Wessely, S. (2002). Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Cochrane Databses of Systematic Reviews, 2.Google Scholar
  52. Sareen, J., Cox, B. J., Afifi, T. O., de Graaf, R., Asmundson, G. J. G., ten Have, M., & Stein, M. B. (2005). Anxiety disorders and risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 1249–1257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shafer, A., Ortiz, R. R., Thompson, B., & Hyemmer, J. (2018). The role of hypermasculinity, token resistance, rape myth, and assertive sexual consent communication among college men. Journal of Adolescent Men, 62(S3), S44–S50. Scholar
  54. Stewart, S. H. (1996). Alcohol abuse in individuals exposed to trauma: A critical review. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 83–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tedeschi, R.G. & Calhoun, L.G. (2004). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 1–18.
  56. Van Emmerik, A. A., Kamphuis, J. H., Hulsbosch, A. M., & Emmelkamp, P. M. (2002). Single session debriefing after psychological trauma: A meta-analysis. The Lancet, 360(9335), 766–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Volpicelli, J., Balaraman, G., Hahn, J., Wallace, H., & Bux, D. (1999). The role of uncontrollable trauma in the development of PTSD and alcohol addiction. Alcohol Research and Health, 123, 256–262.Google Scholar
  58. Wacker, J., Macy, R., Barger, E., & Parish, S. (2009). Sexual assault prevention for women with intellectual disabilities: A critical review of the evidence. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 47(4), 249–262. Scholar
  59. Waldrop, A. E., & Cohen, B. E. (2014). Trauma exposure predicts alcohol, nicotine, and drug problems beyond the contribution of PTSD and depression in patients with cardiovascular disease: Data from the Heart and Soul Study. The American Journal on Addictions, 23, 53–61. Scholar
  60. Walsh, K., Resnick, H., Danielson, C., McCauley, J., Saunders, B., & Kilpatrick, D. (2014). Patterns of drug and alcohol use associated with lifetime sexual revictimization and current posttraumatic stress disorder among three national samples of adolescent, college, and household-residing women. Addictive Behaviors, 39, 64–689.Google Scholar
  61. Whitworth, J. D. (2016). The role of psychoeducation in trauma recovery: Recommendations for content and delivery. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 13(5), 442–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wessely, S., Bryant, R.A., Greenberg, N., Earnshaw, M., Sharpley, J., & Hughes, J.H. (2008). Does psychoeducation help prevent post traumatic stress? Psychiatry, 71(4), 287–302.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catalina Vechiu
    • 1
  • Martha Zimmermann
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA

Personalised recommendations