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Master of Arts in Professional Psychology


The last two decades have seen the topic of child sexual abuse emerge from an issue that was considered rare, or at least uncommon, to one currently viewed as a leading concern of mental health professionals. Public reaction to incest and sexual abuse has changed from one of disbelief to one of active concern. Public awareness and education about the issue of child sexual abuse has developed into a critical area of concern.

Sexual abuse of children is now recognized as a serious mental health problem, both because it is so widespread, and because of increasing evidence of its traumatic effects. In the very recent past, mental health clinicians were rarely, if ever, exposed to the topic of sexual abuse in class content, supervision, professional conferences, or literature, although therapists now report that rather than seeing a solitary sexual abuse survivor, their client load consists of two-thirds of clients reporting experiences of childhood sexual abuse.

The methodology employed in this research project was qualitative. A survey was used to gather information from mental health professionals in a mid-west metropolitan area. One hundred thirty-four surveys were returned from a total of 270 distributed to therapists who were associated with hospitals and agencies that specialized in treating children who had been abused sexually.

The intent of the study was to discover whether mental health professionals in the St. Louis metropolitan area agreed about the definition of sexual abuse, the various effects of sexual abuse on children who had experienced this trauma and what kind of treatment modalities were indicated. Questions in the survey focused on the effects of the experience of sexual abuse on children, as well as on the corresponding implications for treatment.

The purpose of the study was to gain practical information about a sensitive, but critical area of treatment for therapists and others concerned with the welfare of children.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License