I find it useful to pause and think about the historical development of this term. In the sixties, the term “physical abuse” was defined, along with medical neglect. The first reporting laws were written, mandating a few professional groups to report suspected child abuse.
In the early 70's the term “sexual abuse” was added to state laws as something that was reportable. There was national attention to this topic, a new Department of Child Abuse was formed, laws were further defined, and treatment and prevention programs started springing up all over the country. Sexual abuse has received the most attention of the broader categories of child maltreatment.
Neglect continues to be the most reported form of abuse but there are fewer programs specifically dedicated to child neglect.
In the 80's, alongside conferences on child abuse, others were sponsoring conferences on traumatic stress. Frank Putnam, Spencer Eth, and Robert Pynoos, were focusing their attention on trauma and its after-effects. Judith Herman articulated what many hungered for - a way to understand the impact of and response to childhood trauma.
Her book Trauma and Recovery remains one of the most influential books on this subject and her influence is seen in many treatment models across the country. All of us benefit from the knowledge amassed and distributed on the impact of traumatic stress on children and the amount of focused attention on this subject has been nothing short of inspirational.
Currently, there is a national leader in our understanding of trauma: The National Center for Traumatic Stress Studies (NCTSS) and there are several organizations whose sole purpose it is to disseminate information (American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children) and the Institute for Studies of Traumatic Stress (ISTSS) to name a few.
We are enjoying consensus on target areas for treatment as well as healthy discussion and innovation when it comes to how to best address treatment issues. One well-researched treatment model has gained great acceptance and is being taught all over the country (Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
And no shortage of literature, research, and creativity is devoted to the topic of helping. It is truly a great time to be participating as a mental health professional. I will be posting seminal articles on this topic as well as providing information on how to access important literature and resources.
I am committed to sharing what I've learned over the years, in particular, helping young and seasoned clinicians provide an integrated therapy approach which includes an array of trauma-informed interventions which include play, art, and sand therapies, along with cognitive behavioral techniques.