So you’re thinking therapy may help? or you wondering how it will help? or maybe just what its all about? well read on…
For men who have experienced sexual abuse, and/or any kind of sexual violence, either as children or adults the various ways in which these experiences continue to negatively affect their lives is often a very frightening, confusing, and painful ordeal.
Men can feel increasingly isolated and frustrated as a result, which can affect their relationships with themselves, and others as they struggle to cope with the traumatic memories of their abuse. This can in many circumstances act as a trigger for a range of dual mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders, and in some instances episodes of psychosis.
One to one therapy represents an opportunity for male survivors to talk about their experiences within a safe and confidential space, with a fully qualified therapist, suitably trained and experienced in working specifically with male survivors of sexual abuse. The therapeutic relationship itself provides a primary healing and protective factor as trust develops, leading to feelings of safety. This relationship then becomes a secure base from which the client may explore painful and difficult memories, whilst learning about themselves, and developing new ways of coping, and acceptance in the interests of self-healing. This therapeutic process then allows male survivors to move forward, and ultimately regain control of their lives.
At We Are Survivors we adopt an integrative approach to counselling and psychotherapy. As such, we ensure that all of our therapists are clinically trained in integrative ways of working, meaning that they’re proficient with a variety of theoretical models, approaches, techniques, and interventions to assist with self-development and positive change. These may then be ‘integrated’ into an effective framework to assist clients with positive change.
Our therapists have specialist knowledge of the many symptoms and complexities of sexual abuse, while remaining sensitive to the fact that each male survivor’s experiences are unique to them. Such an approach allows the therapist to be both flexible and responsive, and to facilitate a process of therapeutic treatment both informed by, and based on the specific needs of each client.
The We Are Survivors counselling and psychotherapy treatment outcomes are recorded and monitored using validated and recognised outcome evaluation methods. We currently use the Clinical Outcomes and Routine Evaluation (CORE), and the Impact of Event Scale (IES-R). This ensures that our clinical outcomes data is periodically recorded, and monitored in the interests of providing as effective and efficient level of service possible, whilst providing up to date, anonymised statistics for on-going research within the field.
What is counselling and psychotherapy?
Counselling and psychotherapy are forms of treatment that are often referred to as ‘talking therapies’. The quality of the relationship that develops between you and your therapist represents an important part of the process, as this will help to cultivate feelings of trust, and safety. This then enables you to speak freely about your life, your feelings, and your experiences of abuse without fear of being judged. As your treatment continues your therapist will work with you to assist you in identifying, and exploring any issues that are causing you difficulty as a result of you abuse. These may include your relationships, ways of thinking and feeling, or any patterns of behaviour that are proving to be unhelpful or painful.
You and your therapist will then work together in deciding the best course of action for you, and exploring any potential solutions, or changes that you would like to make. Your therapist is trained and experienced in a range of techniques, strategies, and exercises that can help with this, and will work with you in identifying the best ways for you to move forward as an individual, and that you feel most comfortable with.
As you learn more about yourself, and develop new ways of responding to, and coping with the traumatic events in your life (past and present), this then allows you to feel more at peace, and in control of your life and future.
What is integrative therapy?
At We Are Survivors we offer a form of integrative therapy. This means that your therapist is trained in, and has a professional knowledge of a range of different theoretical approaches for self-development, and positive change. Which specific types of approach will depend upon who you’re working with, but there are four ‘core’ theoretical approaches:
- Person Centred – with an emphasis on the therapeutic relationship, and providing the right conditions for personal exploration and growth to take place.
- Solution Focussed – with an emphasis on assisting you to identify problems or difficulties you’re facing, and explore potential solutions.
- Psychodynamic – with an emphasis on childhood experiences, family, and relationships, and how these may be subconsciously affecting our lives.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – with an emphasis on how we think, feel, and behave are all linked, and together affect how we function.
These four ways of working represent the basic approaches that your therapist will use, although there may well be others, dependant on the therapist. This allows them to respond to your needs, and integrate aspects of each approach together into a framework to assist you in your personal development. It’s useful to remember that your therapist knows about therapy, but it’s only you that knows about yourself, which is why working together can be so useful.
Is it confidential?
Yes, confidentiality is an essential element of the therapeutic relationship, and vital in building trust. Your therapist will discuss the issue of confidentiality with you during your first session as a part of the therapeutic contract that the two of you will enter as a result of your collaborative work together. However, when doing so they will also explain the limitations of this confidentiality, as sometimes there are exceptions. As a registered mental health professional your therapist has a duty of care to the public interest. This means that when there are serious risks of harm to their clients or others, they are professionally obligated to share information with outside agencies (such as GP’s, Social Services or the Police).
The situations where information will need to be shared are usually made with your consent, and your therapist will generally discuss this process with you before doing so. However, in very rare circumstances this may not be the case dependant on individual situations.
How long are the sessions?
Your therapy will usually involve meeting weekly for 50 minute sessions. On occasion there may sometimes need to be the occasional longer session (such as when doing focussed trauma work), but this will always be something that your therapist will discuss with you beforehand, and arrange with you.
How long does the course of therapy last?
Everyone’s experiences are unique to them, and as such some clients may need a longer course of therapy than others. At We Are Survivors we currently offer a maximum of 20 sessions (about 5 months), although as previously stated some people often need less than that.
Your therapist will include regular reviews within your treatment process, which involves the two of you discussing progress, and also gives you the opportunity to discuss any aspects of the treatment that you feel are working, as well as any aspects you feel you would like to change. This ensures that you’re getting the most from your treatment, whilst allowing you to have control of what is essentially your space, and how you would like to use it.
What happens if I miss a session?
When you enter into a course of therapy it will involve a level of commitment from you to attend regularly, and engage with the process. However, there may be occasions where you cannot attend, for example due to illness, conflicting appointments, or planned holidays. If you can’t attend your session it is important that you contact your therapist with at least 24 hours’ notice before the appointment, as we do charge for missed sessions with less notice than this.
We are unable to keep a therapy space open for you if you do not attend three sessions in a row ( aside from illness or planned holidays), due to our having a waiting list for the service. Your therapist will try to be as flexible as possible as long as you communicate with them, and let them know what is happening, otherwise they will assume that you no longer need the space, and offer it to another client.
Won’t talking about what happened to me make me feel worse?
Male survivors of sexual abuse each deal with their traumatic and painful experiences in their own ways. However, it is both understandable, and very common for many males to have buried these traumatic memories, and not want to speak about them, or face them. This is about survival, and is actually their minds way of protecting them, from all of the painful and distressing thoughts, feelings and emotions that are associated with those experiences of the trauma. However, the downside of this, is that what happens as a result is that symptoms of these traumatic experiences will still affect them in negative ways even if they’re not consciously aware of them. Examples of some of the kinds of symptoms of sexual abuse that affect men include:
- Drug and alcohol dependence or excessive use.
- An inability to form and maintain lasting relationships.
- Feeling unable to trust others.
- Consistent feelings of shame, guilt, or anger.
- Eating disorders.
- Offending behaviour.
- Explosive bursts of anger, aggression and violence.
- Depression and anxiety.
These represent merely some of the ways that the ‘avoidance’ of facing what’s happened to you may affect you. Therefore, speaking about your experiences within the safety of a therapeutic relationship represents an opportunity to face what happened to you, develop acceptance, and regain control of your life.
It is an unfortunate consequence of therapy that many men begin to feel worse before they get better. However, the difference with this process is that there is a positive outcome, you’re in control, and that you are no longer expected to face this alone. Your therapist will work alongside you, and be able to offer you strategies, and techniques that will assist you in managing the symptoms of trauma in between sessions.
It is also important and useful to remember, that what you will be exploring will be your ‘memories’ of the abuse, and not the abuse itself. As such, you cannot come to any physical harm this time, and you are completely in control and in a safe space with your therapist supporting you.
And remember, that any of this work will be at your own speed, and only attempted when, and indeed if you are ready. This is your treatment, your journey and your life, so you’re in control!