Treatment for Survivors of Child Abuse
Different forms of therapy are effective, depending on the age of the child and specific family circumstances.
Treatment for the impacts of child abuse can take the form of individual therapy, parent/child therapy, family therapy, and support groups.
Depending on a family’s circumstances, a member of social services may visit a family’s home regularly to make sure a child is living in safe conditions and receiving care.
Below are just a few examples of treatments that can help children who have experienced abuse.
Child-Parent and Infant-Parent Psychotherapy
In these therapies, therapists work in joint sessions with parents and young children (ages 0-5) to process trauma.
Therapists help children and parents talk about difficult experiences, respond to difficult feelings and behaviors, and create a family story that leads to healing.
Specially trained therapists help children express themselves and process abuse through therapeutic play.
In play therapy, children act out their emotional life and address problems through materials including blocks, puppets, clay, and paint.
Through this active form of therapy, children can develop better coping skills and improved relationships with caregivers.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
TF-CBT helps children and teens heal by addressing distorted beliefs associated with mistreatment. With TF-CBT, children can discuss traumatic events in a supportive environment, where they can process the trauma and learn coping skills.
TF-CBT involves parents and caregivers who were not abusive. In treatment, they learn to cope with the distress of abuse that happened to their child.
Parents and caregivers learn positive parenting skills, stress management, behavior management, and effective communication.
Child Abuse Can Be Addressed – Yes, There is Hope
Child abuse is a wide-ranging issue that can have lifelong repercussions.
Children who experience abuse may develop mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They are more likely than their peers to engage in risky behaviors and experience a range of stressors, including early pregnancy and suicide attempts.
The toxic stress of child abuse can also make victims more susceptible to physical illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
Given the seriousness of child abuse, it is imperative to protect young people. Stable housing, affordable medical care, and food assistance are just some of the social factors that can help prevent maltreatment.
At the individual level, adults can recognize abuse, report it, and support the child.
Children whose experiences are validated, and who receive counseling after abuse, have better mental health outcomes. Caring role models can make a difference in a child’s ability to overcome maltreatment.
Through public policies, community programs, and individual action, over time we can work toward decreasing the incidence and severity of child abuse.
Want More Information?
Looking for even more information about the effects of child abuse? You may find these resources helpful.
Articles, Videos, and More
Learn more about child abuse and what you can do if you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health.
These organizations may also have useful information on child abuse prevention and mental health support:
Serving the U.S. and Canada, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who—through interpreters—provide assistance in over 170 languages.
The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All interactions are confidential. To contact the hotline, call or text 1.800.4AChild (1.800.422.4453), para español, presiona el 1.
Crisis Text Line
This text hotline is available to provide support for any crisis. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States. A live, trained counselor receives the text and responds from a secure online platform.
Darkness to Light
This organization is a leader in child abuse prevention, advocacy for behavioral impact, education, training, and research. It also has a 24/7 hotline where callers can have questions answered or can talk with a trained crisis counselor. To access the hotline, call 1.866.FOR.LIGHT (1.866-366-5444) or text LIGHT to 741741.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is the largest and most influential child protection organization in the United States. They operate a 24-hour call center and cyber tipline where people can report information about a missing or exploited child. For more information, call 1.800.THE.LOST (1.800.843.5678) or visit the cyber tipline.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Highly trained expert advocates offer free, confidential, and compassionate support, crisis intervention information, education, and referral services to domestic violence survivors. Support is offered 24/7 in over 200 languages. To access the hotline, call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text START to 88788. Live chat is available on their website.
State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a directory of state toll-free numbers and websites to report child abuse and neglect to specific agencies.
Stop It Now!
This organization prevents the sexual abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families, and communities through direct support, information, and resources to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. Call 1.888.PREVENT to reach the Stop It Now! hotline.