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In the last track we have reviewed countertransference and use of the Losses and Gains exercise.
On this track, we will look at the first two parts of the Healing Cycle for those living with the secrets of childhood sexual abuse of exposing the wound and re-experiencing the trauma. Sheila, is a 13 year old, who came to me for therapy when her mother discovered Sheila's 30 year old cousin, Nate had been sexually abusing her since she was 8 whenever he baby-sat.
A fact to consider as stated
by Finkelhor & Williams is, "an average of 5.5 children per 10,000 enrolled
in day care are sexually abused, and an average of 8.9 children out of every 10,000
are abused in the home."
Stage #1: Exposing
Technique: Body Scan
I stated, "What are you feeling
Sheila was unaware of her emotions at first. Think of your Sheila. Would it be appropriate to use a body scan in your next session? As I encouraged Sheila to focus on her body, she became aware of not only her physical feelings, but also recognized the emotions that she felt with the pain.
I have found body awareness plays a central role in reclaiming repressed and denied memories. When focusing on the body or emotions, Sheila is eventually led back to her original wound. So as Sheila became aware of what her body was experiencing, as you may know, it allowed her to move to the next step of re-experiencing the trauma. As you listen to Sheila's story, consider if your Sheila has body awareness or would benefit from this exercise.
Here is another example of a body scan. Tara, a 13 year old, who remembers her arms being held while being abused by her grandfather during the years before he died, stated when asked what she was feeling replied, "I'm feeling angry!" Let's look at the Body Scan as I used it with Tara.
I asked Tara, "Why are
Stage #2: Re-experiencing the Trauma
As Tara re-experienced her trauma, she explained, "I keep wanting to get away, but I'm scared. I just lay there frozen. I'm looking up at the ceiling and pretending to fly around the room, like a bird trying to escape. He touched me where I don't want to be touched. It hurt! But parts of it felt good. I'm so confused. I loved my grandfather! It hurts and I'm scared! I want to hit him and I can't! It's hard to breathe and my heart is pounding. I'm scared."
I have found the "Body Scan" exercise allows clients like, Sheila and Tara to begin to explore either what they think is a lack of feeling or the opposite, their strong feelings. As you consider your Tara, would she benefit from exploring her emotions that will surface as she re-experiences the trauma emotionally?
Now that we have discussed exposing the wound and re-experiencing the trauma, the next track will deal with the last two stages of the healing cycle externalizing the pain and healing the wound and the techniques of creative drawing and writing "unmailed" letters.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ensink, K., Borelli, J. L., Normandin, L., Target, M., & Fonagy, P. (2020). Childhood sexual abuse and attachment insecurity: Associations with child psychological difficulties. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 90(1), 115–124.
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