Emotional and behavioral sequelae of child sexual abuse and the comparison of treatment outcomes with caregiver intervention or animal-assisted therapy.

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Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to evaluate two adjunctive therapies (caregiver groups and animal-assisted therapy) available at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC) for child victims of sexual abuse and their families. The hypothesis was that either of these adjunctive therapies would provide additional benefit in reducing the child’s presenting symptoms above and beyond child therapy alone. This retrospective study evaluated the children’s presenting problems and their treatment outcomes by analyzing Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) data that had been collected at baseline and post-treatment. Overall, the results suggested that children who completed therapy at DCAC experienced significant decreases in all symptom subscales of the CBCL from baseline to post-treatment. Results demonstrated significantly greater improvement in somatization symptoms of child victims when their caregivers participated in a caregiver intervention when compared to children whose caregivers did not participate in any such intervention. The results also revealed no significant difference in symptom subscale scores between the children who participated in animal-assisted therapy with a therapy dog and those who participated in therapy as usual. The data suggest that animal-assisted therapy provided in an individual setting may have been more beneficial in reducing attention problems than animal-assisted therapy in a group setting. Small sample sizes for the treatment groups limited the statistical power to detect other differences that could have been significant. Further studies will need to be conducted to confirm the benefits provided by these adjunctive therapies for child victims and their caregivers.

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Sexual abuse. Caregivers. Animal-assisted therapy.

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