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March 2003Vol. 4, No. 2Treatment Guidelines for Child Abuse Published

The Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, released new guidelines for mental health assessment and treatment of victims of child abuse and their families. By helping practitioners more easily identify which commonly used treatments have strong empirical support and which do not, Child Physical and Sexual Abuse: Guidelines for Treatment will increase the likelihood that abused children receive the best treatment available.

An advisory committee composed of nationally known clinicians, researchers, educators, and administrators developed the criteria for evaluating treatment protocols. The manual describes and classifies 24 common treatments based on the following:

  • Theoretical basis
  • Clinical-anecdotal literature
  • Acceptance among practitioners in the child abuse field
  • Potential for causing harm
  • Empirical support for utility with victims of abuse

Of the 24 treatments reviewed, 16 had at least some empirical support for their efficacy with cases of child abuse. One was rated as having a substantial and unacceptable level of risk. The others were classified as "promising and acceptable," due to a lack of empirical support.

In the manual's general treatment guidelines, readers are advised that treatment protocols with the highest levels of empirical and clinical support should be considered "first choice" interventions. The importance of assessment is also emphasized.

The publication, edited by Benjamin E. Saunders, Lucy Berliner, and Rochelle Hanson, is the result of a 3-year collaboration between the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at Harborview Medical Center. It may be downloaded from the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center website at

Related Items

Read more about specific treatment approaches in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Outcomes Being Documented for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy" (October 2002)
  • "HHS-Funded Research on Children with Sexual Behavior Problems" (March 2000)