PTSD and sexual abuse; working safely
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Ian Woollams MBACP (accred)
26th December, 2015
When the physical, emotional and bodily remembered memories of sexual abuse are kept secret, a tension of conflict exists within the survivor. This is manifested in thoughts, feelings, behaviors and ailments that distort and plague everyday functioning. These are the consequences of sexual abuse. The medical term used is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those memories can be held for decades till eventually they can no longer be tolerated or suppressed. They boil over into every aspect of the victims being and everyday functioning becomes numbed or frozen. Recent exposing of celebrities sexual abuse has opened those wounds for many victims who have somehow struggled to keep silent.
PTSD is characterised by constriction (flashbacks, nightmares), hyper-arousal (feeling constantly edgy, ready for another attack) and constriction (numbing of functioning, lack of imagination as to what to do).
Using an approach such as the three-stage approach developed by Judith Herman MD (Trauma and Recovery ’92) it is possible to work therapeutically with the trauma of PTSD. Establishing a safe therapeutic relationship where stability can be re-established comes first. This sets the scene for the ‘remembrance and mourning’ of the traumatic events. New meanings can then be discovered to those events based in the present.
It takes time and a strong, healthy therapeutic alliance for healing to take place. Working with a therapist knowledgeable and experienced with trauma will enable that growth to be achieved; in a way that’s safe and effective.
About the author
I currently work as a Trauma Focused Counsellor with Survivors Manchester, working with male survivors of sexual abuse. I also have a private practice in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, Cheshire. See 'Open hand counselling' on this web site or www.openhandcounselling.co.uk.
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