Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST)

About This Program

Target Population: Children 3-17 years of age who have experienced sexual abuse trauma

For children/adolescents ages: 3 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 3 – 17

Program Overview

FST was created in response to the need for a therapy model that can be used effectively with child sexual abuse victims when criminal and civil court cases are actively pending. It is employed at the conclusion of the investigative process, when a decision has been made that sexual abuse is likely to have occurred, the case is being sent forward for prosecution, and the child is exhibiting signs of trauma. The FST model is an ecological approach that uses multiple modalities of intervention, including:

  • Therapy for the child's sexual abuse trauma that includes both the child and non-offending caregiver
  • Specific intervention and support for the non-offending caregiver pertaining to the multiple losses sustained in the aftermath of sexual abuse discovery
  • Interface with the Criminal Justice System and criminal court
  • interface with Child Protective Services and civil courts
  • Interface with schools and other professionals typically involved in child abuse cases

Program Goals

The overall goal of Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST) is:

  • Allow children to heal from sexual abuse trauma in a manner that will support the child and family through the process of a criminal prosecution using techniques that are designed to be sensitive to the rigors of criminal prosecution in child sexual abuse cases

Essential Components

The essential components of Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST) include:

  • Conduct a thorough trauma assessment: The therapist uses clinical observation, interviews with parents (and sometimes teachers), assessment instruments, and various in-session activities to learn about the child's trauma issues.
  • Engage the caregiver in appropriate intervention: The caregiver participates in the child's therapy sessions as appropriate. Caregivers are also invited to participate in individual treatment
  • Assess the forensic aspects of the case: The therapist takes into account the forensic aspects of the case and interfaces with Child Protective Services and the Criminal Justice System
  • Conduct a strength and needs assessment of the child: After the initial stage of rapport building and developmental assessment, the therapist begins a process of learning about the child's understanding of his or her support systems. Then the therapist looks at ways the child can be encouraged to access existing and new forms of support such as supportive and competent caregivers, safety in home or placement, resources, residential permanence, adequate school system and education plan, healthy peer group and safe neighborhood, etc.
  • Assist the child in articulating their abuse experience: The therapist encourages expression of affect related to the abuse using a variety of FST exercises and formats
  • Address specific behavioral and emotional symptoms: The therapist works with the child on specific behaviors and emotions and promotes healing of the existing trauma dynamics. Specific symptoms are treated primarily with psychoeducation and cognitive behavioral techniques in FST
  • Enhance resiliency factors and body safety awareness: The final stage of therapy is focused on bolstering the innate resilience of the child, increasing body safety awareness, helping the child to recognize their strengths, and developing strategies for the future
  • The accompanying parent/caregiver component is called "Family Advocates", which has four components for addressing issues of caregivers:
    1. Safety planning and preservation of the caregiver-child family unit
    2. Education for the caregiver on his or her role in the investigative process
    3. Empowerment of the non-offending caregiver to build a safe and stable home
    4. Decrease in the likelihood of the non-offending caregiver allowing the alleged offender back into the home during the investigation.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Trauma symptoms related to sexual abuse, including behavioral and emotional symptoms such as PTSD and attachment disorders

Parent/Caregiver Services

Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Parent of a child who has experienced sexual abuse

Recommended Intensity:

One session per week

Recommended Duration:

Each session should be 50 minutes in length. It is recommended that treatment sessions span 12-30 weeks.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Agency
  • Hospital
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Residential Care Facility


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Therapy room
  • Art supplies

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Master's degree in the behavioral sciences.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

There is currently no set training program; e-mail consultation available with training contact listed above.

Number of days/hours:

There is currently no set training program.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST).

Additional References

No reference materials are currently available for Forensically Sensitive Therapy (FST).

Contact Information

Connie Nicholas Carnes, MS, LPC
Agency/Affiliation: Dakotah Landing
Phone: (256) 679-6727

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: December 2015

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: May 2014

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2006