I have been asked the other day whether people need to go to a psychotherapist or counsellor to recover from sexual abuse. I think that is a really good question. Does a person need therapy to heal? I don't think it is necessary to go to a psychotherapist or counsellor. However, they need someone for support because there is little evidence that people heal 'naturally' meaning by itself just through time passing.

What do survivors of sexual abuse need to recover? Human beings, like all mammals, depend on other's to help regulate emotional and physical states. Babies depend completely on others for state regulation. Growing up people can do it more and more for themselves - if they have good enough caregiver/parents.

However, people are never completely able to regulate their states by themselves. That's where chat rooms, face book groups and other on and offline social networks are coming in. People need people who care, listen, understand, and are supportive.
Those who experienced abuse while growing up struggled to learn to regulate their emotional and physical states. The creation of the necessary the neuro pathways and cortical networks did not take place or only took place minimally. This is certainly the case if good enough parenting was a problem or if parents were also the abusers.

As a result here you are now, an adult, struggling with depression, anxiety, mistrust, phobias, flashbacks, physical flashbacks, to name a few of the disturbing symptoms. At this moment survivors need access to another person who understands, listens, cares, believes and challenges when necessary, to help the survivor regulate his/her emotional states. This way they learn to cope with overwhelming emotions and learn more and more to self-regulate. Recognition given to survivors in these ways enables them to build self-confidence, self-respect, self-esteem.

The other person can be a therapist, but doesn't have to. It can be a friend, partner, or a group. It has to be someone who focuses fully or a lot on the survivor's needs. What’s needed is someone, who through his/her actions affirms that the survivor is loveable, ok, gorgeous, cute, interesting, resourceful, clever, strong, or amazing. Recognition given in these demonstrative ways will strengthen the survivor's sense of self.
However, because partners, friends, and family members have needs of their own, they will find it difficult to put their own needs aside to be fully available as support for the survivor. It sets them up for burn-out and often puts stress on the relationship.

It is sad to realise how many survivors are for a long time on the recovery journey without support. That's really a hard thing to have to do. The problem is if things take a long time and survivors don't feel they are making any progress, they come to believe that they are un-helpable. They even might feel like giving up. That's tragic!

A good therapist is able to make this journey much easier for survivors of sexual abuse. A good therapist is someone who can establish a relationship with survivors. It is someone who is able to help survivors feel at ease and overcome the often deep seated mistrust. Survivors can increase their ability to connect with a helping professional by focusing and improving on their relationship skills.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Gudrun Frerichs is a trainer, psychotherapist, and researcher who has researched for the last 9 years how people recover from the impact of abuse. She has dedicated herself to assisting survivors of sexual abuse to grow strong and fulfil their potential and their dreams. Read on www.multiplevoices.com and gudrunfrerichs.com. Is your relationship in distress? Get her free mini course Successful Relationships gfrerichs.typepad.com/psychological_resolutions/2008/08/the-secret-of-successful-relationships-7-day-mini-course.html