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On the last track, we discussed projection and introjection in the desexualization of childhood sexual abuse. We will also look at the use of the Positive Retrospection” exercise.
On this track, we will discuss grieving the loss of security, the loss of childhood and the benefit of using “Story Telling” technique
As you have observed in your own work, children who have experienced sexual abuse at a young age tend to lose vital emotional functions and these become painfully apparent when the child grows to adulthood.
Now let’s look at some losses that survivors of sexual abuse suffer, then we will explore some grieving techniques to facilitate the client growing past these losses.
I have found in working with clients experiencing sexual abuse, loss of security affected their experience of safety, trust, comfort, certainty, and predictability. In addition, to loss of security, the survivor of sexual abuse also experiences loss of childhood via loss of innocence, spontaneity, memory, and freedom of choice. Also these clients lose a sense of self. By this I mean they lose a feeling of empowerment, esteem, and identity. Other losses they suffer are attachment, nurturing, and meaningful relationships.
In the grieving process, some patients experience a multitude of fears such as uncontrollable crying, being destroyed, and appearing “weak”. Judith Herman writes, “The telling of the trauma story thus inevitably plunges the survivor into profound grief. Since, so many of the losses are invisible or unrecognized, the customary rituals of mourning provide little consolation."
Loss of Security
Some visible signs that a client needs to grieve an emotional loss include, sadness, anger, loneliness, fatigue, helplessness, shock, yearning, and numbness. Symptoms that exist for an extended period of time may indicate that are even more severe
As you well know, posttraumatic stress disorder stems from events that threatened death, serious injury, or personal integrity of the self. To qualify for posttraumatic stress disorder, clients must experience symptoms in three categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, and arousal.
For survivors of sexual abuse trauma, a memory is unalterably fixed on their consciousness. Whether or not they want to, they relive the trauma over and over again. Any attempts to block this memory are futile. The remembrance is especially intrusive the more severe the trauma. In addition, many times the way in which the memories manifest themselves is foreign. Sometimes it may be just a fragment of the memory, for instance, the face of the abuser may suddenly appear out of nowhere.
Two Psychological Dilemmas
#2 - Controlling their Environment.
When a trauma such as rape occurs, their sense of control is skewed and they might react in different ways. Jess reacted by exerting an extraordinary amount of independence while in a foster home and later when she began to live with her biological father, George. Jess became angry, acted out, and flouted rules and limits her father set for her. I believe Jess’s belligerent behavior was her attempt to regain the control she had lost after her rape.
Using the Story Telling Technique
For example, Samantha said, "Once upon a time, there lived a pelican and this pelican went like that-eeeeeee. He was embarrassed with that noise. He tried not to do it but that's all he could say. So then he tried to kill himself. Then he tried to say something else. Then he found out that he didn't have to kill himself." I felt he sound the pelican made was perhaps symbolic of Samantha’s need to speak out and the consequences of doing so. She soon learned that if she denied the abuse verbally, she would not be embarrassed or punished.
On this track, we discussed grieving the loss of security and loss of childhood and the use of the “Story Telling” technique
On the next track, we will discuss the ways play therapy can be used when dealing with repetitive rituals, control, and regressive behavior. We will also look at when setting boundaries in play therapy would be beneficial.
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