Can therapy help my daughter recover from sexual abuse?

Dear Stop It Now!
I want to do whatever I can to help my eight year old daughter who was sexually abused. Will bringing her to a therapist help her recover?

Dear Concerned Parent,
Yes, recovery is much more likely when an abused child is able to work with an experienced therapist. Fortunately, for many children who have been abused, getting help from a specialized professional with a background in working with children who have been sexually abused can be very helpful. If you’re not sure if your child needs or is ready for treatment, make an appointment with a therapist to get a professional opinion about how your child is doing.

Healing from child sexual abuse is a process that does take time.  By giving your child loving support and getting them appropriate treatment, you can strengthen your child’s potential to heal and to increase their likelihood of successful recovery.

Children don’t always feel free to express how they’re feeling to a parent. In fact, the love they feel towards their parents can influence a child's desire to protect them. They may be afraid that bringing up difficult subjects and feelings will cause pain and upset to the adults they’re closest to. A therapist or counselor can be a “safe” adult for a child to talk to – someone who won’t get hurt, angry or frightened, no matter what the child says. Within this “safe” relationship, the child is encouraged to explore and express their feelings. Our Online Help Center has additional information for children (and adults) who have been abused.

Children can also feel guilty and feel they are to blame for their abuse, and a therapist or counselor can work with the child to relieve her of that guilt and to help them understand fully that the abuse was not their fault in any way. Therapists can also work with the child’s family, helping them understand specifically how the abuse affected their child, and providing parents with guidance on how they can support their child, themselves and the family as a whole.

There are national and local organizations that can help parents find therapists for children, as well as crisis centers and child advocacy programs.  Some families choose to consult with their pediatrician or talk with their insurance provider; others prefer to find someone on their own. Please look at our referrals for specialized treatment for children who have been abused. It is important that you feel that the professional who will be working with your child is someone you trust and feel is a good “fit” for your child. You can ask questions or request an initial consultation just for you before you bring your child in for her first appointment.

The Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute has put together a booklist of books about healing for abused children

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: January 3rd, 2012