Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Bryana French, Consuelo Cavalieri


Adolescent sex trafficking (also known as domestic minor sex trafficking, DMST) continues to be a problem in the United States. Due to the hidden world of human trafficking, the numbers reported are inconsistent and are likely to be gross underestimates. Estimates range from 244,000 to two million young people who are exploited or at risk for DMST (Davis, 1999; Estes & Weiner 2002; Flowers, 1998). Youth who have experienced sex trafficking are exposed to physical violence, torture, sexual violence, forced abortions, sexually transmitted infections, and infertility (Cecchet & Thoburn, 2014). These experiences may create mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), paranoid ideations, depression, extreme fear, anxiety, increased suicidal attempts, and depression (Hickle & Roe-Sepowitz, 2014). Very little research is conducted on how to best serve adolescent survivors of human trafficking, and the majority of shelters and treatment centers do not provide services that are specific to sexually trafficked youth. This study aimed to address a gap in the literature by exploring mental health professionals’ experiences working with DMST. Using a phenomenological qualitative approach, six mental health professionals who have worked with survivors of DMST were interviewed. Participants represented a variety of professions including clinical directors, therapists, and advocates with experience from 18 months – 20 years. The participants identified areas of successes and limitations that are needed in professional development, their experiences with DMST population, and providing care for DMST in the community. Results from the study offer implications for research and practice pertaining to DMST treatment.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.