Sexual Abuse Treatment: Therapy

There are many different modalities utilized to treat trauma, and none are exclusively best. 

The latest research shows that Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most effective method so that is our primary model.  This facilitates working with the children on both affect and behavioral regulation, as well as developing a narrative account of their trauma when possible.  Our therapists, however, use an eclectic mix of psycho-education, cognitive behavioral therapy, self- esteem enhancement, play therapy, and intermodal expressive arts, all with a focus on trauma.  We also work with the Non-offending caregiver (NOC) on the importance of establishing an environment of safety to help re-establish the child’s sense of equilibrium. 

We have utilized a Parent Advocate who meets with the NOC both individually, and in a group while the clients are attending sessions.  Sometimes a Parent Advocate meets with the NOC and the client and/or therapist in an effort to best coordinate services.    

Our program is primarily a group treatment program.  After an individual and family assessment, most of our clients are moved into groups of similar ages and experiences.  By seeing other children that have experienced similar trauma, they no longer feel alone with their problems and begin to have hope for the future.  Should a crisis arise we have the ability to see the client short term individually or with their family to resolve issues. Our youngest age group is a pre-school/kindergarten group which includes both boys and girls together with a focus on personal safety, identifying and expressing feelings and an educational component.  Our therapists are sensitive to cultural issues and we have recently hired a Spanish-speaking therapist to increase engaging our Hispanic families.

Examples of how approaches and techniques are implemented include:

  1. Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT):
    1. Psycho-education (examples)/Cognitive Restructuring:
      1. Child reluctant to talk about abuse; “Can’t remember,” “put it out of my mind.”
        Approach: It’s important to talk to an adult whom you trust, such as your counselor or parent or another grownup.  You really do need to talk about the abuse or it stays inside of you like a secret. Talking will help. You feel better after awhile.
      2. Child expresses feeling guilty because they kept the abuse a secret.
        Approach: Explanation of why children often don’t tell, i.e., told to keep it a secret, because of offender tricks or threats, or feeling ashamed or scared.
      3. Child feels guilty because they “didn’t stop the abuse.”    
        Approach: Explanation of freeze/fight/flight response
    2. Stress Management:
      1. Mother reports child anxious and fearful with trouble falling asleep at night.
        Approach: Therapist may teach Controlled Breathing Technique.
      2. Child thinking of abuse at school.
        Approach: Therapist may teach Thought Stopping Technique

  2. Gestalt Approach:
  3. As therapy progresses and child is feeling safer, therapist may ask them to “put the offender in the hot seat,” or have a dialogue with their guilt using their new strength to explain how they don’t deserve that feeling.  

  4. Play Therapy as a Therapeutic Approach:
  5. Play Therapy Technique (For termination) 8 year old girl.
    An informative (for therapist) and therapeutic (for client) technique for preparation for termination is to have the client make a board game of her experiences in therapy.  She was given various choices for size and type of paper/poster board to use for the actual “board.”  She selected what she liked (representative of her time in therapy relative to her age) and has just begun selecting other arts and crafts materials to use to make the path representing her therapy. The activity is very nondirective, as it was based on her perception of her experience in therapy. She has already asked if this is a “game” that will be left at SATP or if she will take it home – of course, I’m leaving that up to her….

  6. Group Therapy:
  7. This is our preferred method of treatment.  When a trauma survivor receives support form a peer who has also been through similar trauma it is a very powerful and often life changing experience.  It normalizes the event so that many of the negative feelings i.e. guilt, shame and sense of responsibility are reduced.  It is also cost-effective.

      Contact Info

      Main Office:
      Child Protection Center, Inc.
      720 South Orange Ave.
      Sarasota, Florida 34236
      Phone: 941.365.1277


      Venice locations:
      2210 S. Tamiami Tr.
      Venice, Florida 34293





      North Port Location:
      6919 Outreach Way
      North Port, Florida 34297


      Arcadia Location:
      222 N. Roberts Avenue
      Arcadia, Florida 34266