Therapy tailor made for you, so you can stop being haunted by traumas from your past, enjoy peace in the moment, and have hope for your future.
As a child sexual abuse survivor (or a person with complex trauma) you often struggle with feeling broken. This broken feeling is hard to describe to others, so you keep it to yourself, not wanting to be seen as a problem. But deep down you feel like something is wrong with you. Your memories feel jumbled. Relationships are scary and hard for you to keep. You experience intense emotions that are sometimes overwhelming. At times you feel happy and hopeful, while other times you feel fear and anxiety. When you do finally feel like you have connected with someone you cling to them, afraid to trust them and fear they will leave you at any moment. You never feel like you are good enough and this leaves you feeling miserable.
But you are not broken. You experienced something very horrific during your childhood and the coping skills you learned during that time were useful then. They kept you alive. During this time you were focused on survival. When you're focused on survival there is no space to process your thoughts and feelings about what's going on, so you bury everything deep inside and lock it in a box. Never to open it! Afraid to open it and lose control. The physical and mental pain of being sexually abused was overwhelming to your young mind and body, and there is a part of you that continues to be locked away. Afraid to be opened.
Those skills were useful then but keep you stuck now. They actually contribute to the negative things you think about yourself. The "I should be...." and "why can't I..." thoughts that you have on a daily basis which lead you to not liking yourself. When you don't like yourself it's hard for you to believe or feel that anyone could like you, so you self sabotage. This is done by leaving people before they can leave you (this also makes you feel in control), labeling yourself as a bitch (keeps people from seeing your insecurities by pushing people away or being aggressive), or not being able to set boundaries (fear that people will leave you, so you do what ever you can to keep them close even at your own expense).
These behaviors do not make you feel happy and contribute to your feeling of brokenness as well as lonely. You can change these behaviors and find a sense of peace and true happiness in your life, maybe for the first time. You no longer have to feel haunted by your past but rather you can accept it as a chapter in your book of life that has impacted you but doesn't define you. This is what healing is all about. Most important- healing and recovery from the effects of sexual abuse are possible.
So here’s some of the things we will do together to get you on the path of healing.
#1 We move at your pace. Therapy is about building our relationship. This means building trust, which is earned slowly. It will feel scary to open up and share with me but remember that I am here for you. What we discuss is private and stays between us. I am not judging you and there is nothing you could share with me that would shock me or make me reject you.
#2 I will ask you questions. Some of these questions will be used for me to get to know you and your past, so I can better understand the dynamics at play. Other questions will be used to encourage you to reflect. To think about the patterns you’re engaging in and how they both help and harm you. The goal is to help you break the cycle that is keeping you stuck but first we must figure out what it is and your triggers.
#3 We will feel together. The biggest part of healing will be to connect the parts of yourself that you are disconnected from, because of the past trauma and abuse. The disconnection helped you in the past because it allowed you to function and survivor the trauma. But now that you’re an adult, out of the environment, the disconnection is keeping you from experiencing love and joy. It will be a scary and uncomfortable feeling at first, but we are going to retrain your sensitized brain to essentially override your instincts to flee, freeze, or fight when it’s triggered (trauma response). At the present moment, anything that reminds your brain of that early trauma will send it in a tailspin to protect itself, so we will be adjusting this thermostat.
We will also laugh and smile together. You will share your wins and successes and together we will celebrate them because you deserve it. I may even say a word wrong or forget a word and together we will laugh at this mistake. Remember it’s about feelings a wide range of emotions, this is what makes us human, and this is what allows you to feel connected.
#4 We will do more than talk. I know when you think about working online you picture only sitting on your computer or tablet and talking. Even if you come to my office you may envision me sitting in a chair and you on a couch talking. But in order to help you reconnect with all parts of yourself we have to move. There will be times that we drop the computer and talk on the phone and go for a walk. We may stand up in my office and do some breathing exercises or grounding techniques were I have you access different parts if your body. The beauty of movement is that it regulates the body and emotions.
Also since sexual abuse and other complex traumas occur as a result of horrible interpersonal experiences your brain will feel less threatened as we talk about those things that trigger you because you don’t have to look at me. (It’s true and it works!) By walking or using other movements we get to discharge that pent up unresolved trauma energy, which is stored in the body. It’s often stored in the legs, arms, chest, and also pelvic area (especially with sexual abuse). We wont only be talking about trauma but also positive memories and experiences. By doing this you’re creating new associations in your body that are more positive not just the pain of trauma.
#4A) Other types of movement that we can do, and it’s again based on your preferences: yoga, self massage, dance, going to the park and swinging on a swing, stretching, and even acting. I am not a certified trauma sensitive yoga instructor, and I would be happy to put you in touch with someone who is because I think they are crucial to helping survivors heal, but we can do some basic movements during our sessions.
#5 Homework. Even though we dive deep in session the work happens outside of session. This is why I will often give you things to do, to practice. They will be related to things we discussed in session, and the hope is that you practice trying new things that will help you feel more connected to yourself and others. I often assign journaling, affiirmations, gratitudes, helping you identify and practice using boundaries (including saying no), exercise, etc. These things will help boost your self-esteem and self worth, which is part of self love and self care. The sky’s the limit and it’s all based on what is right for you. Some things will work, and some things wont. That’s ok it’s all part of the process.
I hope what I listed gives you a little glimmer into what we will do together in our sessions. I am looking forward to connecting with you and helping you on your path to healing, because you deserve to feel happy, loved, and at peace.
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