Understanding The Benefits Of Sexual Abuse Counseling
By: Sarah Fader
Updated October 14, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Stephanie Chupein
Benefits Of Sexual Abuse Counseling
Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised that the article below might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence, which could be triggering.
Sexual abuse counseling can often require you to dig into parts of yourself to tackle difficult subjects. This can be trying, but it may be necessary to heal. The good news is that once you are given the proper tools and help to heal your wounds, moving forward can become more of a blessing. It can sometimes be a cathartic experience to talk about these experiences in a safe space where you do not feel judged. Among some of the more difficult topics to discuss is sexual abuse. Many may try to avoid their history of abuse in an attempt to leave these problems behind. This issue is especially true with teens. However, blocking painful memories can cause long-term damage, such as amnesia.
Sexual assault is often among the most traumatic experiences a person can undergo. Individuals can repress these events for a long time. Some people don’t talk about childhood sexual abuse until years after the fact. But discussing it is a way to heal. Seeing someone to help you face this time in your life can be very helpful, and it can change your life. While you might have met with an assault forensic examiner following an incident, that may not constitute adequate treatment. You may find that the trauma you experienced is continuing to impact various areas of your life.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for support and resources.
Abuse of any kind can have a huge impact on a person's mental health. Whether the incident occurred recently or happened 20 years ago, survivors may experience the psychological effects of sexual abuse throughout their lifetimes. The possible conditions resulting from sexual abuse include anxiety, depression, trust issues, lower self-esteem, feelings and thoughts of shame and guilt, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), fluctuations in mood, periods of intense anger, dissociation with feelings, self-destructive behaviors, and more. If these go untreated, the effects can recur for months or even years.
Many People Receive Help For This (and You Can Too)
Every 98 seconds, a person in the United States is assaulted. There are 32,000 survivors of sexual abuse every year in America. Although being sexually abused can feel like an isolating experience, you are not alone, which is especially true regarding the support you can receive for your experience. If you have been sexually abused, treatment is out there to help you work through and overcome these issues. But what exactly can sexual abuse counseling provide?
With more and more survivors of sexual abuse coming forward with their stories, the field is rapidly developing. More and more counselors are training to help survivors talk through their issues.
Seeking Sexual Abuse Counseling: The Difficulties Of Supporting Child Survivors
Childhood sexual abuse is among the most traumatizing acts of violence. Many children don’t understand what has happened. Because of this, childhood sexual abuse is often repressed until later in life, which can form a source of trauma for adults.
It is of the utmost importance to receive professional help as soon as possible. With the right counselor, you will be able to work through the trauma of sexual abuse and remedy the symptoms that have developed. No matter what you believe, you are capable of change and deserving of happiness.
Counseling someone through sexual violence instances in their life isn’t easy. It can be very stressful, especially for those who have tried to repress sexual violence for a long time. But survivors of sexual abuse need to know that they’re not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control, roughly one in five women and one in 38 men will experience rape in their lifetime. Among children, one in four girls and one in 13 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse.
Counseling has been shown to alleviate symptoms related to sexual abuse. With counseling, survivors of sexual abuse can face their pasts and learn to move forward.
You Will Develop Self-Love Behaviors And Routines
When you attend psychotherapy sessions or talk with a licensed mental health professional online, it's much easier to begin the healing process. This means that you will learn and develop various self-care strategies and tactics to aid you throughout your daily life. These strategies can help when a person who has experienced sexual abuse feels overwhelmed with thoughts about the previous incident and its related ebbs and flows of emotions.
One of the most significant benefits of sexual abuse counseling is that it can help you feel better about yourself again. The experience of sexual abuse can often leave survivors with negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves. A counselor can work with you to affirm and unlock new feelings about yourself so that you can begin to focus less on the past and more on a brighter future. With the proper help, you can find a new identity and create space to gain greater fulfillment in your life.
Sexual Abuse Counseling Will Help You Get Your Feelings Out
Some survivors of sexual abuse bottle their emotions up so that they can ignore them and function. The solution? Many mindful and experiential techniques during therapy can aid in the recovery process. These include learning to meditate, writing in a journal, creating a piece of art, and more. A sexual abuse survivor could be struggling with feelings of numbness, fears of intimacy with a current partner, shame for "allowing the incident to happen,” and more. While it could be challenging to face internal emotions, using them for something positive also helps self-love and recovery.
Many survivors of sexual abuse often have difficulty expressing and validating their thoughts and emotions. Sexual abuse counseling can help survivors correct their course. Talking to a licensed counselor that can help you validate your emotions can significantly boost your confidence. Many survivors of sexual abuse who finally face their painful emotions, although challenging, can achieve a sense of liberation and peace. Expressing your emotions can begin taking back what sexual abuse has taken from you and other survivors.
The Benefits of Group Therapy: You’ll Build A Network Of Support
In a group therapy session, you will realize that you are not alone facing these experiences, thoughts, and emotions. You can talk with peers and the moderator about what is happening inside your head and in your own life. This can help you to manage guilt, shame, and other emotions associated with sexual abuse. Sharing your story could help you throughout the healing process, and it could even help someone else too.
Seeing other survivors overcoming similar challenges with sexual trauma can be empowering and give you a new sense of hope. Talking with others who have experienced the pain of social abuse can be an essential part of the healing process for many people.
Survivors of sexual abuse may sometimes feel responsible for their abuse. Hearing the experiences of other survivors can help you recognize that abuse can happen to anyone and that what happened to you is a reflection of your abuser, not yourself. Family therapy is good because it can help you with issues related to the family, and family therapy can also tackle how the assault affects your ability to connect with others.
It Creates Greater Self-Awareness
The impact of sexual trauma runs deep. It impacts the way survivors see themselves, others, and the world around them. Survivors will often develop defense mechanisms that may have been helpful during the abuse but have become very problematic in fostering happy and healthy relationships. Many survivors of sexual abuse become vulnerable to unhealthy or abusive relationships in the future. Others may become guarded. They may have trouble trusting and letting people back into their lives. Gaining a greater sense of self-awareness can allow survivors of sexual abuse to recognize how specific thoughts and behaviors may be impacting their current relationships and mood. Self-awareness can enable survivors to identify and implement tools to cope effectively. This process can help you manage emotions and triggers related to the abuse that may surface in other relationships in your life.
It Can Give You New & Healthy Ways To Cope
Many sexual abuse counselors will pull from various treatment modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy to help survivors of sexual abuse gain skills that will allow them to manage how they feel about the abuse successfully. Survivors of sexual abuse may have specific triggers that bring up intense emotions related to the abuse. Sexual abuse therapy can give you tools that will allow you to self-soothe and manage emotions in effective and constructive ways. Skills such as mindfulness or distress tolerance can help survivors cope with difficult and painful emotions as they arise.
It Allows Healing
Sexual trauma can lead to painful emotions like anger, guilt, and shame. It is important to express these emotions and begin healing the wounds that allow these emotions to fester inside. Sexual abuse counseling can help you rebuild a new perspective on life. After facing their emotions, survivors will then have the opportunity to challenge the way they see themselves and foster new hope for their futures.
Your future does not have to be defined by your past. If you need help taking back your life after experiencing sexual abuse, speaking with a counselor is an effective tool to begin your healing process. Those abused as children might find it harder to heal since that trauma is much more complex. But anyone can learn to heal, improve, and regain control of their lives.
How to Find the Strength to Seek Help
Seeking help for the sexual abuse you have experience can be very difficult, and you may need to build up your strength and courage to seek the help you want. If you need some support, here are some tips to help you get into your first counseling session.
Trust The Process
Counseling is highly recommended because it is effective and proven to work. Specialists trained in trauma-focused interventions have studied methods of treating survivors of sexual abuse. Specifically, a method known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly recommended and effective means of treatment that mental health professionals have developed. In seeking treatment, you can rest assured that many others have walked your path before you. For example, in one study, survivors of sexual abuse experiencing PTSD were split into three groups. One group tried CBT, one group tried a different form of therapy known as problem-solving therapy, and the last group did not pursue therapy. The study found that the survivors in the CBT group were significantly more likely to meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis no longer.
When you seek out counseling, you can trust that you will be listened to and understood. You will be able to share your story in a safe space free of judgment. Better yet, counseling will give you the tools you need to heal and help yourself in the future.
We all know when we are ready to heal. You may feel a strong desire to reshape your life. The way we live and work may have been damaged due to the trauma we experienced. It is natural to want to correct course. Once you decide to seek help, you've already won.
Try Different Types Of Therapy
Several kinds of therapy can help you overcome sexual trauma. For starters, if you experienced trauma that affects your ability to have sex, sex therapy can help with those instances. Sexual abuse, sexual violence, and other problems that cause issues with your ability to have sex can be tackled through sex therapy. It can help you connect better with others and learn to let go of the problems as well.
Many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse struggle to develop healthy sex lives. Couples counseling helps with this too. If your partner knows about your past abuse, then couples therapy may be the answer.
Art therapy is another good option to help those who have experienced sexual abuse because it lets survivors express their trauma creatively. If they were abused as children, they could use art therapy to work it out, and it can help those who have experienced sexual abuse, including those who experienced childhood sexual abuse.
Psychotherapy, commonly known as talk therapy, is great too. With talk therapy, you can discuss sexual issues, including issues involving sexual activity. With a counselor, you can healthily tackle these sexual issues.
If you experienced childhood sexual abuse or adult sexual assault and have turned to drug abuse to cope, drug and alcohol counseling can help too. It can help you get to the bottom of why you abuse those substances and how to overcome addiction and substance abuse.
Making It Easier With BetterHelp
Getting face-to-face counseling can be intimidating for some people. Suppose the anxiety of this encounter is holding you back from beginning your journey. In that case, you may want to pursue another form of counseling where you can meet with a licensed counselor remotely. You can receive this kind of counseling by reaching out to a service like BetterHelp. BetterHelp's licensed counselors are available to reach you in the comfort and safety of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Besides reducing your anxiety, this also gives you more freedom in your schedule and makes it so that you don't have to travel to get the help you need. If you want to see how well BetterHelp counselors can help you, take a look at a few of the reviews listed below from people experiencing similar issues.
"Christina has been so extremely helpful for me. She has guided me to better myself, build a strong foundation, and helped me know my self-worth. She has helped me understand that I am an individual and strong by myself. She has helped me process and move past my traumas. Because of her guidance, I am a 10x better version of myself.”
"I was very hesitant to try therapy online. I have found Matthew Jones to be a great therapist and resource. I appreciate his ability to discuss issues that make me feel vulnerable. He is very professional and has given me great insights and resources that provide me with the tools to cope with the things in my life.”
Sexual trauma can be hard to confront, but once you are free of it, you'll be able to live your life without anything holding you back. Use the guide above to learn more about what you can expect when you seek out sexual abuse counseling and the benefits of doing so. No matter what you've gone through, you can move forward to a safe and healthy life. Take the first step today.
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