Psychological intervention and treatment programs for adult victims of child sexual abuse: A systematic review

Psychol Trauma. 2024 Apr;16(Suppl 1):S274-S284. doi: 10.1037/tra0001389. Epub 2022 Oct 27.


Objective: Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a public crime, prevalent worldwide and associated with various consequences, which are potentially destructive, both in the short- and the long-term. This systematic review aimed to critically describe and analyze the studies published about the treatments implemented with these victims.

Method: Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, studies were identified through search on EBSCO, PubMed, and Web of Science. Of the 49 articles retrieved, 14 were retained for further analysis, and seven were considered eligible for inclusion, leading to a final sample of seven articles, published between 2011 and 2021. From each study, we extracted objectives, methodological aspects, and main conclusions. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (a) empirical studies that provided psychological treatment for adult victims of CSA; (b) studies that included at least two treatment groups, with or without a control group but with pre- and posttreatment measures; (c) studies whose treatment was directed at the victim. Exclusion criteria were as follows: (a) studies published before 2011; (b) studies that included children and/or adolescents in their sample; (c) case studies; and (d) studies that have not implemented any psychological treatment for adult victims.

Results: Most therapeutic approaches have been shown to be effective in reducing at least one of the symptom variables assessed (e.g., anxiety, depression, and PTSD), for which dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy showed the best results.

Conclusions: Although promising, the inconclusive results reflect the need for quality, controlled studies with a representative sample of CSA victims, which would overcome methodological shortcomings found in the analyzed studies. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual* / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual* / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy* / methods
  • Crime
  • Humans
  • Psychosocial Intervention