Post traumatic stress disorder in children who have faced sexual abuse

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Children who have experienced sexual abuse are usually faced with stress due to the experience they had. Children faced with post trauma after a sexual abuse incident behave in a nerve and upset manner. Post traumatic stress disorder is a psychological condition that develops when an individual in this case a child is exposed to a traumatic experience such as sexual abuse. Children who are very young in age who have been sexually abused by adults and tend to experience PTSD and statistics show that these cases affect more girls than boys. There are various symptoms that characterize PTSD including disturbed thoughts and feelings, occurrence of dreams during sleep relating to the incident or experience or mental distress that can result to physical harm.

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Problem population

The level of sexual abuse amongst children under the age of 12years and below has risen in the country as compared to previous years. This has had a negative impact on the moral and social behavior of the children especially the victims of sexual abuse (Beck, 1963). The discussion about PTSD in children is important since the number of sexual abuse cases have been on the rise in the country hence leading to increase in PTSD amongst children especially those that have been sexually abused. Children especially the very young ones require psychological when they are sexually since they are weak in terms of mental capability so as to help them recover from the experience.

Review of the cognitive behavioral therapy approach

The best form of psychological help and treatment to provide to these children is cognitive behavioral therapy that psychiatrists use to treat victims of psychological illnesses due to various reasons as sexual abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that is mostly used for treating disorders that are related to anxiety (Mayberg, 2004). Such disorders include panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, paranoia, phobia and social anxiety disorders. The therapy is a short term based form of therapy that is aimed at achieving various goals and objectives by psychiatrists with regards to their clients. It aims at changing the pattern of behavior or thinking amongst individuals who have faced a psychological issue hence changing how they feel about themselves.

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Theoretical framework in cognitive behavioral therapy approach

The cognitive behavioral therapy approach is guided by an integrative theoretical framework that distinguishes specific disorders from generalized psychological disorders (Bandura, 1965). The integrative framework also differentiates the various interventions aimed at changing the thinking of individuals from interventions aimed at changing unknown beliefs that surround individuals. The therapist has to assess the patient fully so as to be able to know the various solutions to come up with to help them recover from the negative experience of sexual abuse.

Critic of the cognitive therapy approach

The cognitive behavioral therapy approach has been used by various psychologists and has had positive impact on the psychologically ill patients. Researchers who have studied the form of therapy have assessed the results that it has derived from children faced with PTSD and shown that it has been successful in a number of cases though not all. During treatment the psychologists develops a conceptualized unique therapy method that is to be used on a single patient during psychological treatment sessions (Albert, 1964). Though the form of therapy has positive results amongst the various psychological patients it has been viewed as partially dangerous during application since sometimes patient differ and some psychological illnesses such as PTSD require different approaches.

Role of therapist in Cognitive behavioral therapy approach

Therapists who apply the cognitive behavioral therapy in treating their patients tend to sit silent and listen to the thoughts and ideas of their patients regarding various experiences and events. The psychologist listens to the children who have been sexually abused and asks them on their thoughts of how the incident occurred and how they feel. The therapist observes the attitude of the child towards various life issues and the attitude they have towards the incident of sexual abuse that they faced. From the observation and listening the therapist is able to assess the patient fully with regards to the incident of sexual abuse.

Applications and strengths of the approach

This enables the therapists to come up with various methods in which he will apply the cognitive behavioral method to treat the child of PTSD .The cognitive behavioral therapy form of psychological intervention has positive outcomes on the patients whom in this case are children. The therapist can determine the positivity or negativity in a child who has been sexually abused by talking and listening to them about the incident or about various life issues. Various therapist use the form of therapy to treat their patients especially children who have been sexually abused. Listening to the patient views and attitudes helps the therapist can up with effective and sustainable solutions to the problems.

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Structuring of counseling sessions

The counseling sessions are structured in a manner that will bear more output within a short time since the approach usually operates on a short term basis. During the counseling sessions the therapists has to ask the patient various questions regarding the sexual abuse incident and question concerning life issues then he listens to what the patient has to say. At the end of the sessions the therapist asks the patients on their feed back with regards to the psychological treatment sessions (Walker, 1998). Positive feedback is a sign that the form of psychological treatment is effective and might have a positive outcome at the end.

Techniques applied in the cognitive behavioral therapy approach

The approach aims at boosting the self esteem of the individual by encouraging them to be strong and providing them with various motivational reasons to move on. There are various techniques that are applied in the form of therapy to help the patients in healing. These techniques include challenging beliefs, relaxing, mindfulness and doing physical and psychological exercises to help the patient forget various negative things. These techniques are aimed at keeping the patient occupied so that they do not keep thinking about the experience which in this case is sexual abuse.

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Performance evaluation

The performance of the approach can be ascertained by assessing the level of symptoms change in a patient and determining whether they themselves are satisfied with the treatment (Nezu, 1986). The therapist should establish whether the counseling sessions are having a positive impact on the behavior of the patient and also the changed of patient attitude should be assessed. If the form of treatment works the therapist may conclude so by confirming a positive change of attitude and behavior. The self esteem of the patient improves and the patient tends to partially if not fully to forget the experience.


In Conclusion, the number of sexual abuse cases amongst children of 12years and below has risen and is of major concern in the country since it has had a negative impact on the moral and social conduct of the sexually abused children These children are usually faced with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the incidents of sexual abuse in which they are victims. The sexually abused children require psychological help that can be provided by therapist in order to be treated through counseling and other psychological treatment approaches so that the stress and other psychological issues are avoided or reduced amongst them.

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  1. Beck AT (1963). Thinking and depression: Idiosyncratic content and cognitive distortions. Arch General Psychiatry. 9:324-33.
  2. Goldapple K, Segal Z, Garson C, Lau M, Bieling P, Kennedy S, Mayberg H (2004). Modulation of cortical-limbic pathways in major depression: treatment-specific effects of cognitive behavior therapy. Arch General Psychiatry. 61(1):34-41.
  3. Bandura A (1965). Vicarious processes: a case of no-trial learning. In: Berkowitz L, editor. Advances in experimental social psychology. Vol.2. New York: Academic Press
  4. Lazarus RS, Albert E (1964). Short-circuiting of threat by experimentally altering cognitive appraisal. J Abnormal Psychol.69:195-205.
  5. Nezu AM (1986). Efficacy of a social problem solving therapy approach for unipolar depression. J Consulting Clinical Psychol.54 (2):196- 202.
  6. Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker (1998). Wounded Boys Heroic Men. A Man’s Guide to Recovering from Child Abuse by Daniel
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