Survivors of Sexual Abuse Can Benefit From Psychotherapy

By Patrick Noaker, Sexual Abuse Attorney

Psychotherapy can be immensely beneficial for survivors of sexual abuse by providing them with a safe and supportive environment to heal, recover, and regain control over their lives. Here are some key benefits of psychotherapy for survivors of sexual abuse:

Emotional Support

Psychotherapy offers survivors a space to express their emotions, share their experiences, and process the complex and often overwhelming emotions associated with sexual abuse. Therapists can provide empathy, validation, and a non-judgmental atmosphere, allowing survivors to feel heard and understood.

Trauma Processing

Sexual abuse can cause deep-seated trauma, and psychotherapy helps survivors process and make sense of their traumatic experiences. Therapists utilize evidence-based techniques, such as trauma-focused therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), to help survivors work through their trauma and reduce its impact on their daily lives.

Healing and Recovery

Psychotherapy facilitates the healing process by providing survivors with tools and coping mechanisms to address the emotional, psychological, and physical consequences of sexual abuse. Therapists help survivors develop healthier ways of thinking, improve self-esteem, manage anxiety or depression, and establish boundaries and self-care routines.

Empowerment and Regaining Control

Sexual abuse can make survivors feel powerless and stripped of control. Through psychotherapy, survivors can reclaim their sense of agency, regain control over their lives, and rebuild a positive self-image. Therapists support survivors in setting boundaries, assertiveness training, and fostering self-compassion, helping them regain a sense of empowerment.

Resolving Guilt and Shame

Survivors often experience intense feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame following sexual abuse. Psychotherapy helps survivors challenge these negative self-perceptions, recognize that they are not at fault, and work towards self-forgiveness and acceptance. Therapists assist survivors in reframing their experiences, addressing distorted thoughts, and developing self-compassion.

Post-Traumatic Growth

With time and appropriate therapeutic support, survivors can experience post-traumatic growth – a phenomenon where they develop newfound strength, resilience, and a deeper sense of meaning in life. Psychotherapy helps survivors explore their values, find meaning in their experiences, and rebuild a positive and fulfilling life.

Healthy Relationships

Sexual abuse can significantly impact survivors’ ability to trust and engage in healthy relationships. Psychotherapy offers a space to explore and address these relational challenges, helping survivors establish healthy boundaries, develop trust, and improve communication skills. Therapists can also provide guidance on building and maintaining supportive relationships.

Each survivor’s journey is unique, and the benefits of psychotherapy can vary depending on individual circumstances. A skilled and compassionate therapist can tailor his or her approach to meet the specific needs and goals of the survivor, fostering healing, growth, and resilience in their recovery process.

Additional self-help resources:

  • Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse, by Carolyn Lehman. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 2005) ISBN: 0374372829. 
  • Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse, by Mic Hunter. (Ballantine Books, June 1991), ISBN: 0449906299.
  • Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse, by Mike Lew. (Perennial Library, February 1990), ISBN: 0060973005. 
  • Leaping upon the Mountains: Men Proclaiming Victory over Sexual Child Abuse, by Mike Lew. (North Atlantic Books, March 2000), ISBN: 155643345X. 
  • The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. (Perennial Library, 3rd Edition, June 1994), ISBN: 0060950668. 
  • The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Wendy Maltz. (Quill, Revised Edition February 2001) ISBN: 0060959649. 
  • Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers and Supporters, by Dr. Jaime J. Romo.