There is no single, perfect treatment for the emotional effects of abuse. Tailor therapy to the individual. In the case of suspected emotional abuse, it is often difficult to provide evidence of abuse. However, just as with other types of abuse, if the case has not already been reported, report any suspicions to the State Central Register (1-800-635-1522) or local hotline.
Appropriate treatment for emotional abuse depends on many factors. If the abuse is the result of family dysfunction, such as resulting from the inability to provide for physical, developmental, or emotional needs, the treatment includes providing appropriate community services. Children/adolescents whose parents are mentally ill, have drug or alcohol problems, or have problems with parenting due to disabilities may also require interventions from local social and mental health services. Children/adolescents with disabilities, particularly communication disorders, may not exhibit the expected symptoms of emotional abuse. They may benefit from intervention by communication experts in order to express their needs. For more information, see the List of Community Services, Appendix I.
The treatment is more complex if emotional abuse is the result of intentional psychological maltreatment, such as spurning, exploiting, terrorizing, ignoring, isolating, or unwarranted denial of mental health care, medical care, or education. Treatment for these types of abuse may involve separating the child/adolescent from the offender. Mental health support for all family members, offending and non-offending caregivers as well as the children, is usually necessary.
Children/adolescents may experience symptoms that vary depending on their developmental stage when the abuse occurred and their current developmental abilities. They may be fearful or angry and have feelings of guilt, sadness, loneliness, or rejection. Some show signs of regression of developmental milestones. Those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may experience nightmares or serious anxiety problems. Treatment often includes teaching the non-offending parent behavioral management strategies.
Although the effects of the abuse may not be apparent immediately following the abuse, the traumatic emotional effects of all types of abuse cannot be underestimated. In most cases refer children/adolescents to qualified mental health professionals for support. Those who have been sexually abused often benefit from services provided by counselors at Rape Crisis Centers.
For information on local centers, visit http://nyscasa.org/ or contact the New York State Growing Up Healthy Hotline: 1-800-522-5006.
Follow-up appointments specifically to evaluate family and child emotional well-being are important after any type of abuse. When emotional or psychological abuse is suspected, referral for professional mental health support may suffice, but the value of your on-going verbal and emotional support at subsequent office visits cannot be overstated.