n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - An alternative way of assessing girls who have been sexually abused : using Gestalt therapy for assessment purposes

Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



This article reports on the findings of a qualitative study which explored the use of Gestalt therapy (initially intended for purposes) during the of young girls who had been sexually abused. The research employed a clinical case study design, situated within the context of psychotherapy outcome research. Nine intervention sessions were conducted with each of two primary school girls, with an analysis of existing documentation, interviews, observation, field notes, visual techniques, and a researcher journal being used as data collection and documentation strategies. Although various traditional assessment strategies exist for children who have been sexually abused, there has recently been some debate regarding the suitability of such techniques in a contemporary South African context characterised by diverse needs and interests. In addition, children who have been sexually abused often experience difficulties in identifying with traditional assessment procedures, suggesting the need for alternative strategies which could be employed with success. In this article it is argued that Gestalt therapy, and the techniques associated with the approach, might effectively be applied as a possible modality of intervening with this vulnerable group of children. Based on the outcome of the present intervention, it seems clear that such an alternative Gestalt-based assessment approach allows for the assessment of participants' emotional and behavioural functioning, as well as the defence mechanisms they employ in an attempt to escape reality and associated painful memories. As a secondary outcome, certain positive emotional and behavioural changes were detected subsequent to the intervention.

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