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Therapeutic and Counselling Services

Accessing support for your child is very much down to when they are ready. The level of trauma that your child may be experiencing will be another consideration for the level of help you seek. If they are in extreme distress support thought your GP, or local Children and Mental Health Service (CAMHS) may be the most appropriate.

It may be that support through counselling or other therapeutic services would be the most effective. This could be accessed through organisations, or independent counsellors. Some of these services will have a cost attached, this may be an hourly rate or a request for donations. It may be that you are eligible for a Criminal Injury Compensation Claim (Link) that could assist in the financing of private counselling. 

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When looking for a service check the qualifications of the counsellor and their experience of working with individuals who have been sexually abused. Some services are time limited, so it is worth also checking if this is the case.

There have been incidents where families have struggled to access therapeutic intervention due to ongoing court cases. This should not be the case and the following information can be used to challenge any organisation or service.

A lot of people think that while an investigation or court proceedings are occurring that a child cannot receive therapeutic support. This is not true and there is guidance for police, social workers and the courts to remind them of this, and that delay in receiving therapeutic support could be harmful to the victim-survivor.

‘The best interests of victims and witnesses are paramount when therapy is required. They should never be denied or discouraged form getting the motion support, therapy or counselling that they may need at any time, either before or after the trial’ (Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Witnesses, and Guidance on Using Special Measures. (P104, 3.154) Ministry of Justice 2022).

Therapeutic support benefits

The benefits for some children in regard to receiving therapeutic support can be:

  • It can help the child with how they are feeling and help them understand their feelings and behaviour.
  • The trauma of the abuse is often under-estimated. To help the child with this therapy can help the child with acknowledgement of their feelings and fears in a safe space.
  • If a child is left in a state of limbo following disclosure/discovery, their low self-esteem and self-worth may well result in distress, self-harm, or destructive behaviour.
  • The longer the period of time between disclosure/discovery and therapeutic intervention, the greater the likelihood of the child having reinforced inappropriate responses and behaviour.
  • The purpose of the intervention is to help the child make sense of what has happened to them.
  • The key treatment focus is the interconnection between how the child feels, thinks, and behaves.
  • Successful treatment programmes draw on cognitive and behavioural therapy but take a more holistic approach.

It is advisable to ask the therapist about their level of qualifications and what the support will cover. Ideally any therapeutic intervention should address:

  • Any impact issues.
  • Any resultant behavioural issues
  • Any resultant emotional issues

The work with the child needs to focus on

  • Their perception of safety – both online and offline
  • Expression and ventilation of feelings
  • Empowerment
  • Sex education
  • Education about sexual offending
  • Guilt, trust and ambivalence
  • Assertiveness and communication skills
  • Wishes and fears for the future.
Therapist qualifications

Some children and families are worried that what is discussed in the therapeutic sessions will be discussed outside of the sessions and where relevant the practitioners’ recordings will be used in court. It is true that records of sessions are potentially disclosable. However, the only records that must be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) via the Police are:

  1. Notification to Crown Prosecution Service that child is to receive pre-trial therapy. Appendix B.
  2. Record of therapy, listing the sessions held and timing, (not the content); what records are available i.e. written, audio, video and whether any other person was present.
  3. Disclosure of Information re: Therapy Sessions - which is a declaration by the therapist of any new disclosures or inconsistencies relating to the offence made by the child during therapy.

It is possible that a Disclosure Order might be made for more detailed records but if you feel the records contain no information pertinent to the trial, then you can use the following procedure:

  1. Refuse to disclose, giving clear reasons to CPS.
  2. If, after discussion, the CPS believes that the information should be disclosed but the therapist still wishes to maintain its confidentiality, the CPS will arrange for a Public Interest Immunity application to be made to the Crown Court. During this hearing the therapist or the therapist’s legal representative will be responsible for explaining to the Court the basis for their refusal to disclose. This hearing will be in private, i.e., without the other parties present, and the Judge will decide whether or not the information should be disclosed to the other parties.

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