Psychological Intervention with Sex-Trafficked Persons: Assessment and Survivor Therapy Empowerment Program (STEP)
Psychological interventions with sex-trafficked persons take its theory and techniques from prior work done with trauma and feminist survivors. The theories underlying trauma-informed and trauma-specific treatment including requiring attention to internal and external safety, client choice, collaboration with client and psychotherapist, building trust, and empowerment of the client are foundations discussed in this chapter. Similarly, understanding sex-role expectations, socioeconomic conditions, interrupted schooling, and the chaos at home and for some in the foster care system that trafficking victims are often exposed to prior to being trafficked also needs to be addressed. Sex-trafficked children rarely come to psychotherapy voluntarily, so care needs to be taken when conducting interviews and designing treatment programs. Following guidelines for other trauma and feminist recovery is a good start, but there are significant issues that are specific to sex-trafficked victims to help them become survivors.
These include developing trust, tolerating elopement from programs, learning new economic survival skills, restoring resiliency, and building tolerance for belonging to groups and community. The Survivor Therapy Empowerment Program (STEP) that focuses on healing interventions from gender violence and interpersonal partner violence is described and adaptations for sex-trafficked survivors discussed. This program uses a combination of cognitive behavioral and relational techniques grounded in feminist and trauma theory.
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