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 something 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 social networks on and off line 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. What is needed is to have access to another person who understands, listens, cares, believes, challenges when necessary, to help establish the ability to self-regulate. Recognition given to the survivor in these forms enables them to build self-confidence and self-respect. These are functions of the SELF that enable emotion regulation and distress tolerance.

People only get that form of recognition through another person. That 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. Such recognition will strengthen the survivor's sense of self.

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. Having said that, the expression "good" doesn't really refer to degrees or training or other achievements. 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. Although a good therapist needs to know about how sexual abuse impacts on survivors on multiple levels, most important is that he/she understands that survivors making a huge leap of faith by seeking help and this courage deserves highest respect.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Gudrun Frerichs, http://www.gudrunfrerichs.com, is a trainer, psychotherapist, researcher, and speaker. She is helping individuals and organisations to improve their personal and professional relationships through advanced communication skills training delivered face to face and as online courses. Dr. Frerichs has a degree in Health and Environmental Sciences. Request her free E-course "The Secret to Successful relationships" using the link gudrun-349621@autocontactor.com.