Although previous research has established that therapists who work with sexually-abused children experience symptoms of vicarious trauma, few studies have addressed the process by which the therapist is affected. In order to understand therapists' personal experiences and how working with sexually-abused children impacts them in their personal lives, the researcher interviewed therapists who were currently working with this specific population. Data analysis was completed by using ethnographic research methods and three major themes emerged during the interviews. The first theme included the "job characteristics" inherent in working with sexually-abused children. This theme refers to how the therapists entered the field of therapy, why they wanted to become therapists, and how they began working with children who had been sexually-abused. The subjects also referred to both the challenges and rewards that came from working with sexually-abused children. The second theme that emerged was the impact of working with sexually-abused children on the therapist's personal and professional life. Therapists also talked about how this work affected their view of the world and their relationships with other people. The third theme included coping with stresses associated with working with sexually-abused children. Therapists spoke about ways they individually coped with the stress and how the agency as an organization helped the therapists cope as well. Recommendations for therapists in this field are given and future research is discussed. Implications for clinical practice, training, supervision and structuring agencies are included.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





sexual abuse, children, burn out, compassion fatigue, self-of-therapist, vicarious trauma, marriage and family therapy, qualitative