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Cognitive-Processing Therapy for Female Victims of Sexual Assault (girls only)



Cognitive-Processing Therapy (CPT) was designed to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of sexual assault. CPT is based on a social cognitive theory and information processing theory of PTSD. The social cognitive theory focuses on how the traumatic event is constructed and handled by a person who is trying to regain a sense of mastery and control in their life, while addressing the impact that distorted cognitions have on emotional responses and behavior. The overall goal of CPT is to restructure unbalanced thoughts directly related to the trauma. The therapy sessions focus on distorted beliefs (such as denial and self-blame), as well as over-generalized beliefs about oneself and the world. Clients are also exposed to their traumatic experience through writing detailed accounts of the incident, which they read aloud to their therapists. Therapists encourage clients to experience emotions while writing and reading the account in an effort to better determine areas of conflicting beliefs, logic, or assumptions that the client has in relation to the trauma. Resick and colleagues (2002) found that women in the Cognitive-Processing Therapy (CPT) group had significantly greater reductions in measures of PTSD compared with women in the minimal attention (MA) wait-list control group. There were no significant differences between women who received CPT and women who received prolonged exposure (PE) therapy. Women in the CPT group showed a significantly greater change in depression symptoms compared with women in the MA wait-list control group. There were no significant differences between the CPT and PE groups.

Risk Factors


Antisocial/delinquent beliefs

Early and persistent noncompliant behavior

High alcohol/drug use


Life stressors


Broken home/changes in caretaker

Family history of problem behavior/criminal involvement

Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)


Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school

Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency


Crime Solutions: Effective 


Ms. Patricia A. Resick
Center for Trauma Recovery
Department of Psychology
University of Missouri-St. Louis, MO 63121
Phone: (314) 516-6738
E-mail: [email protected]


Resick, P. A., Nishith, P., Weaver, T., Astin, M., and Feuer, C. (2002). A comparison of cognitive-processing therapy with prolonged exposure and a waiting condition for the treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder in female rape victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 867–879.

Date Created: April 7, 2021