Date of Award

August 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Committee Member

Catherine Mobley

Committee Member

Heather Kettrey

Committee Member

Heidi Zinzow

Committee Member

Mark Small


In 2016, an estimated 3.8 million adults and children were victims of sex trafficking worldwide. Even with so many people affected, and with the mental health effects of sex trafficking victimization being so serious and long-lasting, very little exists on how to most effectively treat this population after they are rescued or escape. The current study contributes to this body of research by obtaining the perspectives of clinical service providers working with sex trafficking survivors, with particular attention paid to their experiences and views on mental health treatment methods for survivors. This study used a systems perspective and qualitative research methods in line with the Total Quality Framework to ensure a holistic, in-depth analysis of the current state of post-trafficking service provision. Qualitative analysis of interviews with 18 clinical service providers revealed various gaps in the system of service provision that could lead to survivors not receiving the help they need. The study found that the most common mental health symptoms among survivors of sex trafficking were PTSD, anxiety, and depression, but that dissociation and Complex PTSD were particularly common and associated with difficulties in treatment. Clinicians used a variety of treatment methods, including CBT, EMDR, and DBT, but noted that no currently available manualized treatment could meet the complex needs of survivors. Participants noted that there was a need for a sex trafficking-specific treatment framework and that such a framework must include information on trafficking-related issues, suggestions for the adaptation of currently available treatment methods, and a network that allows for collaboration and oversight among service providers.



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