What are your state’s laws regarding mandated reporting?

The Role of a School Counselor in the Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse

Eleven-year-old Alicia arrives in her school counselor’s office one day in tears. She is accompanied by a friend who holds her hand and speaks for her. The friend explains to Cherise, the school counselor, that something really bad is happening to Alicia and that it’s got to stop because Alicia can’t take it anymore. Cherise knows Alicia well from years of working with all students in classroom guidance and small groups, and she asks Alicia if she feels comfortable talking about what has happened with her alone. After the friend leaves, Alicia discloses that her grandfather has been sexually abusing her for at least the past year.

After making the proper reports to the authorities and helping Alicia tell her parents about the abuse, Cherise makes a referral for clinical mental health counseling. Several months go by with Cherise checking on Alicia and checking in with Alicia’s teachers and family. All seems to be going well until one day, Alicia’s mother calls Cherise asking her to see Alicia. Alicia’s mother informs Cherise that Alicia refuses to speak about the abuse to anyone but Cherise.

Cherise agrees to see Alicia for six half-hour sessions over the next several weeks until the mother can find another clinical mental health counselor.

Alicia arrives after lunch one day for her session and says that she wants to write her story so she can finally get it out of her head. She reports that she wants to stop thinking about what happened because she is tired of feeling sick to her stomach all the time. Cherise affirms Alicia’s courage to work on this goal, but she also expresses her concern that discussing the abuse may get in the way of Alicia’s ability to focus on her schoolwork and be her usual self around her friends. Alicia dismisses this concern and starts decorating the front cover of her book. Over the next 6 weeks, Alicia and Cherise worked together to write Alicia’s story. In keeping with tenets of some narrative therapies, Cherise suggested that Alicia write the ending to the story first. Alicia decides that she wants her story to end when she is 25 years old and has a family of her own, that her story has a happy ending, and that her dad (who also would eventually serve a jail sentence for taking indecent liberties with a minor) would one day love and accept her again and be able to look her in the eye with pride. At the end of their sessions together, Cherise agrees to invite Alicia’s parents to school so that their daughter can read her story to them. The parents listen closely to Alicia’s story, cry healing tears, and affirm their love for and pride in their daughter. Alicia’s parents then get permission for their daughter to leave school to have a celebratory lunch together.

Alicia eventually saw a counselor the following year, after moving on to middle school. Her school performance didn’t suffer the drop that her parents expected and doctors predicted. Throughout high school, Alicia’s academic and social achievements thrived.

Discussion Questions

1. What are your state’s laws regarding mandated reporting?

2. What are the primary treatment methods a counselor could use in this case?

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