Mental health articles

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Mental health treatment for sexually abused children

Mental health treatment for sexually abused children Another area of interest is the accessibility of treatment for sexually abused children and their families, as well as factors that predict entry into treatment. Only a few studies have examined either area. Kolko, Selelyo, and Brown (1999) investigated the treatment histories of 34 sexually abused children reported to a county children and youth services center. Approximately one-third of the children and parents received inpatient treatment, and another 21% of children received outpatient treatment. Just more than half of children’s services were rated as helpful, whereas 60% of parents’ services were rated as helpful. Sauzier (1989) also assessed a sample of 115 sexually abused children 18 months after the disclosure. A mental health treatment referral had been made for 78% of the families, and 35% had received psychiatric services. Of all agencies involved, parents reported that mental health treatment was the most helpful. Another study of 511 children evaluated by a multidisciplinary team found that 69% of children received therapy (Tingus, Heger, Foy, & Leskin, 1996). A few factors are related to whether children receive treatment. One factor is the type of agency involved. Tingus et al. (1996) found that 96% of children involved with both child protective services and law enforcement entered therapy, as compared involved with neither agency. Kolko et al. (1999) also found that greater service utilization at intake occurred when the child had less anxiety and when the parent had a history of childhood sexual abuse and heightened psychological distress. Sauzier (1989), however, found that referrals for psychiatric treatment were more likely to occur when the father was the offender and when the child had higher levels of psychopathology. Further, Caucasian children, children ages seven to 13, those suffering more severe abuse, and those placed outside the home were more likely to enter treatment (Kolko et al., 1999; Tingus et al., 1996). Given that most children have some short-term effects of the abuse (Kendall- Tackett, Williams, & Finkelhor, 1993), mental health treatment might need to be made available to more children. Further, nonoffending guardians are often adversely affected by the abuse and might benefit from mental health treatment. Because few studies are available, however, more research is necessary to understand the availability of services to children and their families.

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