Body-oriented therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: an efficacy study

Altern Ther Health Med. 2005 Sep-Oct;11(5):46-57.


Context: There has been little research on body therapy for women in sexual abuse recovery. This study examines body-oriented therapy--an approach focused on body awareness and involving the combination of bodywork and the emotional processing of psychotherapy.

Objective: To examine the efficacy and the perceived influence on abuse recovery of body-oriented therapy. Massage therapy served as a relative control condition to address the lack of touch-based comparisons in bodywork research.

Design: A 2-group, repeated measures design was employed, involving randomization to either body-oriented therapy or massage group, conducted in 8, hour-long sessions by 1 of 4 research clinicians. Statistical and qualitative analysis was employed to provide both empirical and experiential perspectives on the study process.

Setting: Participants were seen in treatment rooms of a university in the northwestern United States and in clinician's private offices.

Participants: Twenty-four adult females in psychotherapy for child sexual abuse.

Interventions: Body-oriented therapy protocol was delivered in three stages, involving massage, body awareness exercises, and inner-body focusing process. Massage therapy protocol was standardized. Both protocols were delivered over clothes.

Main outcome measures: The outcomes reflected 3 key constructs--psychological well being, physical well-being, and body connection. Repeated measures included: Brief Symptom Inventory, Dissociative Experiences Scale, Crime-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Scale, Medical Symptoms Checklist, Scale of Body Connection and Scale of Body Investment. Results were gathered at 6 time points: baseline, 2 times during intervention, post-intervention, and at 1 month and 3 months follow-up, To examine the experiential perspective of the study process, written questionnaires were administered before and after intervention and at 1 month and 3 months follow-up.

Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated significant improvement on all outcome measures for both intervention groups, providing support for the efficacy of body therapy in recovery from childhood sexual abuse. There were no statistically significant differences between groups; however, qualitative analysis of open-ended questions about participant intervention experience revealed that the groups differed on perceived experience of the intervention and its influence on therapeutic recovery.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Image*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Concept*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome