Social & Education Policy

More than therapy: The link between adverse childhood experiences, social support, and therapeutic services

Ronnenberg, M.; Conrad, A.; Wojciak, A.Stevenson; Menninga, E.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have a cumulative effect on physical, emotional, and social well‐being throughout the life course. ACEs also impact parenting practices, which may contribute to intergenerational cycles of trauma. Access to child mental health services and caregiver social support are two protective factors that may reduce the burden of ACEs. To advance understanding of the relationships between caregiver social support and child mental health services among caregivers with ACEs, we interviewed 13 caregivers of young children receiving outpatient mental health services. Thematic analysis revealed the integral role of therapeutic providers in the social support circles of caregivers with high ACE scores. Caregivers frequently named therapeutic providers as the first point of contact in a problem situation. Implications for social work research, clinical practice, and advocacy are discussed.