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Therapy for Childhood Sex Abuse

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Would it be possible for you to recommend a good book that would help us to better understand the process our seven-year-old son is going through during his sessions with a therapist? He's seeing a therapist to help him overcome trauma from sexual abuse by his babysitter. She tells us it's very important to meet with him alone to establish a comfort level with him. She won't discuss the details of his therapy due to confidentiality. She's recommended we meet with another therapist to help us understand what's happening and to help us parent him through this time.

We feel like we're putting all of our faith in this woman. We haven't been successful in finding information to help us understand what we're all trying to accomplish. If you can advise us in any way, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

A: After five months of therapy with your son, a therapist should've communicated his and the family's treatment plan to you. I cannot fault this therapist since I am not party to any of your discussions with her, but I will suggest that, after five months of treatment, you shouldn't be feeling so adrift and clueless about the direction of this process. Don't feel that you have to stay with this therapist simply because you have used her for this long. Is she someone who specializes in the sexual abuse of children? Childhood sexual abuse is such a complex treatment arena that I would seek out therapists who have considerable background and experience treating youngsters like your son. I would be most surprised if you could not find such specialists and parents' support groups in your area by talking with area children's hospitals and treatment centers and your region's psychiatric, psychology, and social work professional organizations.

Here are a few additional resources for you:

  • This is Dr. Toni Cavanagh Johnson's website. She's a therapist and expert in childhood sexual abuse who has written a lot on the topic. She has many resources available that would be of great help to you.
  • "When the Bough Breaks: A Helping Guide for Parents of Sexually Abused Children," by Aphrodite Matasakis
  • The Clearinghouse for Family Violence This Canadian site is very comprehensive regarding the sexual abuse of kids.

You will feel better about any treatment choices that you make for your son if you seek out other experts in childhood sexual abuse and parents who've been in your situation. I know that this continues to be a confusing, draining, and frightening process. Trust your instincts and act on them if you don't feel comfortable about the treatment that your son receives.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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