A Preliminary Perspective for Identifying Resilience and Promoting Growth Among Survivors of Sex Trafficking

by Michelle Sobon

Institution: Wright State University Professional Psychology Program
Department: School of Professional Psychology
Degree: Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Year: 2015
Keywords: Behavioral Sciences; Behaviorial Sciences; Clinical Psychology; Counseling Psychology; Gender; Gender Studies; Health Care; Psychology; Psychotherapy; Social Work; Therapy; trauma; strength based intervention; sex trafficking; human trafficking; psychology; resilience; posttraumatic growth; sexual violence; therapy; treatment; posttraumatic stress disorder; complex PTSD
Record ID: 2058479
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=wsupsych1407280532


This work offers an analysis of the existing literature on trauma, resilience, posttraumatic growth, and sex trafficking. It argues that the field tends to gravitate toward trauma and overlook resilience and the potential for posttraumatic growth amongst survivors of sex trafficking. This work recommends that the field should attend to both abuses endured as well as the courage and strength gained by survivors. Specifically, it argues that it is the task of the mental health professional to step into trauma trajectories with a strengths-based perspective to promote positive, resilient, and growth-oriented outcomes. Resilience and posttraumatic growth theories have been substantiated by empirical support across all gradients of risk and trauma exposure. Survivors of sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking in childhood for genocide soldiers, holocaust survivors, and family crises are among this evidence base; all of which parallel aspects of sex trafficking. However, the field has yet to explore this particular subset of trauma survivors. Research has also demonstrated that when clinicians look for strengths, beginning with the initial interview, they find internal assets and external resources that mark resilience processes in their clients. This type of initial interview then incites a trajectory toward growth-oriented treatment. To apply these concepts, this dissertation proposes resilience and posttraumatic growth guidelines for working with survivors in treatment and research capacities. This work also provides a brief review of how aftercare programs within the United States utilize these guidelines and where they can improve. Finally, phases of treatment and a preliminary model for program components is suggested, which is based on the proposed resilience and growth recommendations.