Childhood sexual abuse is a type of trauma which carries specific consequences which vary depending upon the abuse which was experienced. Once again, not all therapists work with these types of issues. It is very important that your therapist has a comfort level with the work, is knowledgable about how to help you process this trauma and about the special difficulties you may be experiencing, such as flashbacks, dissociation, anxiety, trust issues, and so on.
The working relationship you develop with your therapist can be key, especially since these traumas so often occur within a relationship, involving broken trust, betrayal and deep wounding. I believe our best chances to work towards your healing involve a collaborative relationship built upon respect, caring and attention to what you carry and need to be able to process. If we are successful in creating that relationship, we can walk together to find the pathway out of pain and isolation.
Dissociation is typically an important element of the experience of an abuse survivor. I am both experienced and comfortable working with the dissociation that often accompanies such trauma. This includes more severe instances of dissociative experience, including within Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). In these instances, I have found that a relationally-focused treatment is extremely important, and a great deal of healing often takes place within the building of a trusted relationship.
While it is often important to work with a therapist of the same gender as you are, every person is different, and some feel the need to challenge their issues by working with a therapist of the opposite gender, or the gender of their onetime abusers. They may even simply be more comfortable with that configuration. It is not for everyone, but if you choose to make it so, the most important thing is staying aware of the process and retaining the important elements of respect and collaboration. In this respect, I am able to work with both male and female clients. In this particular field of work, it is important to note that we might work from initial experiences of victimhood, but we work ultimately towards being a SURVIVOR.
You are a Survivor!
Links and resources
The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), and organization for teaching and education about complex trauma and dissociation. They also offer resources for finding a therapist.
The Sidran Institute is a traumatic stress education and advocacy organization. Besides being an excellent resource, they have a superb page on “How to Choose a Therapist for Post-Traumatic Stress and Dissociative Conditions”.
Male Survivor, an organization that works to prevent, eliminate and heal sexual victimization of boys and men.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.”