Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Maria T. Riva, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jesse Owen

Third Advisor

Andi Pusavat

Fourth Advisor

Lavita Nadkarni


Female, Group psychotherapy, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Relationship, Sexual trauma


In the aftermath of sexual trauma, many survivors face painful emotions and experiences that impact their mental health and relationships. This study examined relational group psychotherapy processes including group cohesion and bond with the group leaders as vital components in treatment for sexual trauma survivors. The construct of shame was highlighted and the relationship between shame and group cohesion was explored. Outcome measures were used to assess PTSD symptomatology. A repeated-measures design was used to assess groups that were currently occurring in the community for adult, female survivors of sexual trauma. Five treatment groups were evaluated, with 27 members consenting to participate in this study. Assessment members used included the Engagement Subscale of the Group Climate Questionnaire (GCQ), the Bond Subscale of the Working Alliance Inventory – Short Form (WAI-S), the Compass of Shame Scale (CoSS), and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-5). Participants were administered the PCL-5 at pre- and post-treatment and the GCQ, WAIS, and CoSS at four different time points throughout treatment. Data were analyzed with growth curve models in hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), one-tailed t-tests, and Cohen’s d effect sizes. Participants endorsed connections with other group members and those scores increased further as the treatment group progressed. Results showed that initial perceptions of Bond with group leaders were high at the onset of treatment, and remained this way throughout the course of group psychotherapy. Although no decreases were found on measures of Shame Reactions across treatment, important clinical implications from the results suggest a need for more specific interventions to target feelings of shame. Similar to other studies, there were substantial decreases on scores of PTSD symptomatology at post-treatment. These results and their implications offer insight into clinical practice for group leaders when working with the unique considerations of this population.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Sarah Gooch


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

158 p.


Psychology, Therapy

Included in

Psychology Commons