Sexual abuse can happen to both men and women; during childhood and/or adulthood; once, or on several occasions.
Those who have experienced sexual abuse often feel overwhelmed with feelings of humiliation, shame or emotional pain if they were betrayed by those whom they trusted.
Frequently my clients have moved on and many decades have passed since the events. I find that it can be hard to come to terms with or find peace in what has happened; talking about sexual abuse is very very difficult because it is a taboo subject.
I have found that my expertise in birth trauma counselling has made it sensible for me to extend my expertise to sexual trauma. Most of my clients are women, but I also see many men.
If the abuse is current then it is important to provide support to leave the abuse. Often my clients will want to achieve safety before trying to discuss the past events in counselling.
Counselling for Sexual Abuse
I have a therapy process that feels like telling a story. Story-telling is a very natural process and helps to create a safety by which we can explore the events.
When you retell a story we only discuss the things that you remember; if you don’t remember, then it isn’t part of your story.
It is very important that during the process of therapy we discuss the facts. I will often interject with research information during the counselling process, and share about why or how such events happen. Sometimes learning about why others have acted abusively helps to provide control and rules around how to avoid sexual abuse.
When is it best to attend therapy?
Research would say about 1/3 of women in Queensland have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the age of 16 years. This means people attending counselling have had one sort of event or another. NOT everyone needs counselling; many people have had a terrible experience that they were able to recover from without counselling.
I think it is best to attend therapy when emotions or re-occurring images continue to invade day-to-day living. If you find yourself anxious, avoiding things related to the trauma, have nightmares or feel like your head is constantly working to avoid thinking about the trauma, then counselling is definitely the way to go.
WARNING: the day before attending counselling for trauma is frequently worse for many of my clients than actually doing the counselling. For this reason it can be okay to leave the counselling to when you are having a better week. Please don’t try this if you are moving house, changing jobs, just left a relationship or in the middle of a major life event.
How long will it take?
If you attend without many life challenges then we can proceed if you feel you have the mental space.
I usually spend about 1 hour talking through about 5 years of life. I talk through the story in chronological order and we discuss the good and bad in context. I find that memories of the past are better discussed in context of everything that was going on in a person’s life, not just the trauma. I prefer to do this in 2 hour sessions, as the literature promotes longer sessions of at least 90 minutes for trauma counselling.
How Can I Do this for a Job?
Just a like surgeon who is skilled at operating, it is about experience, skills and knowledge.
Most importantly I have so many clients who have experienced relief from life long memories that have haunted them, so I find it very rewarding.
I focus on the process of counselling, and I attempt to do this as concisely as possible. I’m not a therapist who wants to see you for years, I rather complete the task of trauma counselling in a few weeks.
After many years and many hundreds of clients’ stories of abuse, it is important for you to know that I don’t experience distress in helping you. I have trained for many years, have excellent supervision and I have created those mental boxes that permit me to know about your trauma without being in it. It is the process that I use myself that I’m teaching you, as you share your story with me.
Is it possible to Recover?
Yes of course! I want to provide this service because it is amazingly successful for most clients.
It is important to know that there are good times to do trauma counselling and other times it can be better to problem solve rather than start trauma counselling. I will provide you advice if you visit. If I think we should wait, I will let you know.
You are welcome to book a single session with no obligation to return if you want to check this out in person!
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (Hons), MAPS, MAICD.
Vivian Jarrett is the Clinic Director at Vision Psychology in Mt Gravatt and now M1 Psychology at Loganholme. She is passionate about providing high quality psychology services to Australians from all walks of life.
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