Structured Trauma-Focused CBT and Unstructured Play/Experiential Techniques in the Treatment of Sexually Abused Children: A Field Study With Practicing Clinicians

Brian Allen, Natalie Armstrong Hoskowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Structured, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques are widely considered an effective intervention for children who experienced sexual abuse. However, unstructured (i.e., nondirective) play/experiential techniques have a longer history of widespread promotion and are preferred by many practicing clinicians. No evidence is available, however, to determine how the integration of these techniques impacts treatment outcome. In this study, community-based clinicians who received training in a structured, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral intervention administered pretreatment and posttreatment evaluations to 260 sexually abused children presenting with elevated posttraumatic stress. In addition, they completed a questionnaire describing the treatment techniques implemented with each child. Overall, significant improvement was observed for each of the six clinical outcomes. Regression analyses indicated that technique selection was a significant factor in posttreatment outcome for posttraumatic stress, dissociation, anxiety, and anger/aggression. In general, a greater utilization of the structured CBT techniques was related to lower posttreatment scores, whereas a higher frequency of play/experiential techniques was associated with higher posttreatment scores. However, no interaction effects were observed. The implication of these findings for clinical practice and future research are examined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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