Lesson 4 - Trauma Assessment

Many child victims of abuse and neglect may also be traumatized. However, a person can be victimized without being traumatized. When treating child, teen and adult victims of child abuse, it is critical to assess the degree and impact of trauma experienced by the individual. Each victim varies from the next in terms of support received, capacity to deal with distress, developmental maturity, and coping style. Thus, there is no single way to treat such a diverse group of people. Clinicians must recognize the complexity of the association between maltreatment and outcome while staying focused on the goal of assisting the client in moving from being a victim of abuse to becoming a healthy survivor.

In addition, it is important to remember that each victim’s experience is impacted by the following
  • The victim’s unique experience/perception of the abuse
  • The family’s level of dysfunction
  • The environmental stability of the family
  • The victim’s functioning in all domains, including school/work, home, and the community
  • The age of the victim
  • The victim’s relationship to the offender.
Child Sexual Abuse

Special issues associated with child sexual abuse require specific attention in assessment. Sexual victimization may significantly affect a child’s normal psychosocial development and may impair a child’s ability to trust others, including family members the child loves or authority figures the child respects. Through sexual victimization, the child is forced to experience adult sexuality without the cognitive or emotional maturity to respond to the premature eroticization. Such developmental derailment may seriously interfere with the child’s ability to master childhood tasks, including development of impulse control and a healthy autonomy. In addition, child sexual abuse affects the family as a social system by creating role and boundary confusion. It is especially important that diagnostic assessment be conducted from a holistic perspective, taking into account individual, relational, and social and cultural factors.

An accurate and comprehensive diagnostic assessment is essential to good case management, treatment planning, and achieving treatment goals. However, assessment for purposes of determining treatment needs is very different from assessment for purposes of investigation. It is very important that mental health professionals clarify their role and work within the scope of their training and expertise.

Following the initial assessment, the child’s progress throughout the course of therapy should be assessed at regular intervals. These assessments may range from brief, weekly contacts with parents or caregivers regarding the child’s functioning to re-administration of formal assessment instruments.

Previous                                                                Next