Develop a SART
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Health Care Providers

Mental Health

With the help of mental health professionals, society is beginning to recognize that the treatment of psychological injury is as important as the binding of a wound or the setting of a broken bone.28

One way to think about mental health is by looking at how effectively and successfully a person functions. Feeling capable and competent, being able to handle normal levels of stress, maintaining satisfying relationships, leading an independent life, and being able to recover from difficult situations are all signs of mental health. Mental health personnel (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marital and family therapists) may be called upon to help both victims and those close to victims who are also traumatized by the rape, including families, friends, and spouses or partners. This assistance could be limited to providing information about rape and its effects and could extend to short- or long-term counseling or support groups.29

Consider setting up a collaboration with mental health professionals up front, so that any referrals you make will be as seamless as possible.

Read on for information about—

Setting Up the Collaboration

As a first step, ask yourself the following questions:30

  • Are mental health centers available in your community? If so, whom do they serve? Do they charge for services?
  • How are referrals generally made?
  • Are mental health professionals trained in basic victim issues, violence prevention, and cultural issues?
  • What mental health-related resources are available?

Carefully assess mental health professionals' training and experience before collaborating with them or referring victims or their families to them. Screening questions to consider include the following:31

  • What are the provider's professional credentials? Has he or she been trained in sexual assault issues?
  • Has the professional worked directly with sexual assault victims before?
  • Are patient evaluation data about the professional available?
  • Does the professional accept payment from victim compensation, and are services rendered on a sliding fee scale?
  • Does the professional seek client feedback?

Once you have found mental health providers with whom to collaborate32

  • Create contractual arrangements with them.
  • Develop training materials that address sexual violence.
  • Designate program and training resources, if needed, to improve quality of care.

Roles and Responsibilities

Counselors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists who provide sexual assault recovery therapy must have the advanced training and expertise needed to do such work. According to Arizona's Recommended Guidelines for a Coordinated Community Response to Sexual Assault, for example, mental health practitioners need to33

  • Understand legal processes and any differences that might exist between therapeutic and legal goals.
  • Be familiar with community resources, such as legal advocacy, crime victim compensation, community support groups, advocacy centers, and other resources that may benefit sexual assault victims.
  • Respect victims' decisions regarding reporting an assault, pressing charges, and participating in the legal process.
  • Determine what medical considerations may apply to the case.
  • Keep clear and complete records.
  • Receive training in the treatment of sexual assault victims.
  • Support victims who go through the legal process or refer them to an advocate familiar with the legal process.
  • Be aware that they may be called as witnesses and that their clients' files can be subpoenaed.