The Thriving Conversation Project: A Pilot Assessment of the Use of Thriving Principles With Sexually Exploited Youth

Publication Date



Recent research has demonstrated that the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a significant and growing problem in the United States. There is a lack of resources and services that cater specifically to the social and emotional needs of sexually exploited youth. The available research on best practices with this population points toward the importance of a strengths-based approach, including a focus on building social and emotional skills as well as positive relationships. Given that these concepts are central to the field of positive youth development (PYD), it follows that PYD might serve as a useful framework for the treatment of these youth, and that the development of mentoring interventions for this population may be a particularly effective way to encourage positive development and thriving-related outcomes. This pilot study evaluated the impact of a thriving-oriented mentoring intervention for a group (n =10) of youth impacted by domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). Changes in three key thriving-oriented outcomes, including self-perception, future orientation, and intentional self-regulation, were assessed from pre- to post-intervention. Results of paired-samples t-tests indicated significant increases in scores on measures of positive future orientation, intentional self-regulation, and some domains of positive self-perception, including global self-worth and job competence. These results provide promising empirical support for the continued inclusion and expansion of PYD programming as an effective element of residential treatment for sexually exploited youth.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

King, Pamela Ebstyne

Document Type





Thrive Center for Human Development, Thriving Conversation Project, Child trafficking victims, Human trafficking victims, Sexually abused teenagers




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