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In the last section we will discussed two barriers to treating childhood sexual trauma; transference and splitting. We also looked at Thought Stopping and its use in altering transference situations and the steps in Expanding Client Self Trust.
In this section, we will discuss two more barriers to treating childhood sexual trauma, the barrier of aggression and the barrier of the desire-to-please. We will discuss Corrective Statements that I feel are an effective technique when working with a client who is exhibiting aggression and a desire to please at the end of this section.
♦ Aggression as a Barrier
Raven, age 15, was a survivor of sexual molestation at the age of seven, by her babysitter. I felt it was important that I tell Raven, and then show her, that appropriately displayed anger would not destroy either one of us or drive me away. By my listening respectfully and responding appropriately, I modeled the desired behavior for Raven. As you may know, many survivors of childhood sexual abuse, have grown up in environments where expressing their feelings were not permitted. Also, obviously expressing their feelings was even punished. I have found it helpful to specifically communicate to Raven, "Not only do you have permission to share your feelings, but that I want to hear about them."
In addition to directly telling Raven to express her feelings in the session, I found asking Raven about her nonverbal anger cues provided her with a sign, that I was truly interested and aware in learning about her feelings. Raven's first response was, "No one has ever asked to hear about my feelings! In fact, I used to get slapped in the face, if there was any sign when I was unhappy let alone angry." I found by providing validation for Raven's feelings it provided an opportunity to redirect her in a positive empowering manner.
Consider your Raven. Have you specifically told her she has permission to share her feelings, good and bad, with you? I know you thought it, and I know you know it as a therapist; But have had you actually said to your sexually abused client, "Not only do you have permission to share your feelings, but that I want to hear about them." Do you need to consider doing this in your next session? If so, would it be helpful to replay this section, section 10, prior to your session?
♦ Desire-To-Please as a Barrier
Julia stated, "It makes my mother happy when I look after my younger sister and brothers, while cooking dinner and doing laundry. I can do my homework later, when there is time." As the caretaker, what Julia had learned was "love can be earned by pleasing others". When placing the emphasis on others, she lost the ability to identify her own needs to fulfill them.
Julia continued to struggle with a low self-esteem and her desire to please. She often adopted a submissive role as means of gaining love and acceptance. There were times when she dared to display her own need to be valued, and in doing so placed herself in a vulnerable position to be exploited and used again. In another session, Julia shared, "I was working on this group project with four other kids at school. I just wanted to help where I could. Somehow, I ended up with the bulk of the assignment."
Julia had also learned to use the caretaking role as a means of controlling the degree of closeness or distance in her relationships; including her relationship with me. While it can be confusing, I have found it beneficial to initially follow her lead, to learn her rhythm and maladaptive style and patterns. When Julia began meeting with me, she liked to come in and ask me about my week and worked hard to keep the conversation from focusing on her.
Think about your Julia. Do you know and understand her dance (maladaptive or not) with you and her other interpersonal relationships?
♦ Corrective Statements Technique
As Julia revealed these feelings of guilt and shame, I have her reframing her statements. The reframing took place by having Julia distinguish between the event and the herself. Julia would evaluate an event as if she were evaluating herself. To enabled her to normalize her response and create a corrective statement, I helped Julia separate the event from herself.
Some examples of statements I have used with
Julia and others are:
I reread these four Corrective Statements to you, have in mind your Julia
and see if any would be appropriate in your next session.
Consider replaying this section should you wish to review.
In this section, we have just discussed aggression and the desire
to please, two more barriers to treating childhood sexual trauma and the use of