Counselling for the Adult Survivor of Early Childhood Trauma
My background is working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I came across an article recently on a website called The Healing Place talking about the effects of childhood sexual abuse. I've found the article really helpful & informative in enabling me in my work with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I'd like to share the article with you. I hope that you also find it helpful & informative.
Whilst this article focuses on the effects of childhood sexual abuse, I feel it important however, to stress that all childhood abuse, whether that be sexual, physical, mental, emotional or neglect, can have a profound impact on the child & also the adult survivor. Many of the adult symptoms & effects of CSA detailed in this article, can also be applied to the adult survivor of childhood physical, emotional, mental abuse & neglect.
Why Counselling Can Help:
Many survivors find it difficult connecting their current life situation with earlier childhood abuse. Counselling can help give survivors understanding, insight & awareness into how their childhood trauma is impacting on their lives in the here and now. This may involve looking at a range of issues, for example: setting appropriate boundaries. Many survivors of CSA talk about finding it difficult trusting others, often resulting in them self-isolating. Others talk about a difficulty in knowing how to protect themselves in relationships as adults, often disclosing too much about themselves too soon, which can leave the survivor open to further abuse & exploitation. Counselling can provide the survivor with a safe space to explore these issues, drawing on the therapeutic alliance to explore & practice setting more appropriate boundaries, which can then be transferred to other relationships.
How I Work With Survivors:
In terms of how I work with adult survivors of childhood trauma, my approach is very much recovery focused. There are three phases to how I work with survivors - stabilization & managing responses, processing traumatic memories & reconnecting with the world. My approach is not a linear process & all three phases may be happening at the same time.
Stabilisation will mean various things to each individual. For some survivors it will mean focusing on very practical issues like housing, having a safe place to call home. For others it may mean working on coping strategies, developing more "tools" to put in their "tool kit", so that they feel more resourced & better equipped to deal with life. It may mean looking at other issues like knowing how to set appropriate boundaries & limits in relationships.
Processing traumatic memories will involve talking about & exploring your history in depth, helping you to make sense of how your past experiences are affecting your life right now. Some survivors may not want to talk about their abuse at all in their counselling sessions. This is completely okay. Counselling sessions provides a safe space for survivors to bring whatever they choose to bring to their sessions. A survivor may choose to bring how their childhood experiences are impacting on their life right now, without actually talking about their abuse - this is okay.
Reconnecting with the world will help the survivor to think about their relationships & how they connect with others. Research shows that one of the most important resources that can help with recovery is relationships with others. During this phase, I will help the survivor to look at the things that affect their sense of self-esteem, their relationships with self & others. I will work with the survivor to help them work towards a sense of belonging, whatever that means for them.