Within the field of (medical) child protection, child and adolescent psychotherapists are an important occupational group. However, that fact has mostly been overlooked in scientific discourse. The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence and the approach to dealing with cases of (suspected) child abuse in psychotherapeutic practice.
All KJP who are admitted in the federal state of Brandenburg were asked to answer a questionnaire about the frequency of child abuse, divided by form of abuse and age. Furthermore, the number of reports to an authority/ agency, reasons for not reporting a (potential) case as well as necessary prerequisites for reliable recognition, evaluation and initiation of medico-legal, medical and psychotherapeutic interventions were recorded.
In 2016, 74.4% and in 2017, 87% of child and adolescent psychotherapists registered at least one case of (suspected) child abuse. For both years, emotional negligence and emotional abuse were the most common types of abuse. The age group 6-13 was most affected by child abuse. In 2016, 34.4% and in 2017, 35% of child and adolescent psychotherapists who saw at least one case of (suspected) child abuse reported those to an agency. The most common reason (47.6%) for not reporting cases of (suspected) child abuse was the child’s wish to not share any content discussed in therapy. 83.7% stated that clear criteria to reliably diagnose emotional negligence and emotional abuse are missing. Continuing education on medical/ psychotherapeutic and medico-legal aspects (53.3%), better cooperation between involved professions (43.4%) and inclusion of the overall topic in psychotherapist training and education (26.7%) were mentioned as the most important requirements for effective child protection.
Cases of (suspected) child abuse are highly relevant in ambulant psychotherapeutic practice. Due to their close relationship with the patient, child and adolescent psychotherapists can identify emotional negligence and emotional abuse especially well. Their contribution to the care of children affected by abuse requires continuing education offers specific to their profession, the development of clear measures regarding the cooperation with Child Protective Services (county-level) as well as binding definitions and criteria for the different types of abuse.

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.