Helping Adult Victims of Child Abuse or Trauma using Psychotherapy at 1066 Therapy
covering East Sussex, Battle, Hastings, Bexhill, Rye, Heathfield, Hailsham, Eastbourne, Crowborough, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Ashford, Maidstone and Kent.
I have successfully helped a variety of clients who are either adult victims of child abuse, (whether the abuse is emotional / psychological, physical, sexual, or a combination), or who have experienced some form of trauma in their childhood. I use trauma-informed psychotherapy at my practice just outside of Battle, East Sussex.
Both men and women can experience some sort of abuse or trauma in their childhood and have on-going problems as a result.
What is trauma?
Trauma comes from the Greek word meaning ‘wound’. Events traumatise us when we are emotionally overwhelmed (we go into ‘survival mode’ of fight/flight/freeze) and we feel out of control and unable to defend ourselves. Our brains aren’t ‘wired’ for trauma, which is why we struggle with overwhelming experiences. This is especially the case when we are children because our brain is still developing.
Events which can traumatise include:
- sudden loss of a loved one i.e. through death or divorce
- domestic abuse / violence
- enforced separation such as a parent or child having a stay in hospital (IF it isn’t handled sensitively enough for the child)
- a serious illness or operation (again if it isn’t handled sensitively)
- witnessing violence or death
- natural disasters
- serial abuse by others, especially from parents / parent figures
- neglect (emotional or physical).
The word ‘abuse’ is an emotive word and especially so for the words ‘child abuse’. People often think that ‘child abuse’ means sexual abuse or being beaten. However, the dictionary definitions of “abuse” are ‘to speak rudely to’, ‘to treat cruelly’, ‘to use wrongly/to misuse’. In childhood this covers a wide range of adverse and painful experiences including:
- Psychological and emotional abuse – e.g. regular belittling or criticism of a child, humiliation, verbal bullying, shouting and yelling. It’s not always about speaking ‘rudely’ to a child (although this happens). Unkind words are deeply distressing, e.g. ‘ You’re more trouble than you’re worth’, ‘You’ll never amount to anything’, ‘I wish you had never been born’ and so on.
- Physical abuse – e.g. smacking, hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, hair-pulling with e.g. open hands, fists, belts, shoes, spoons, canes. People often think that this kind of poor treatment ‘did them no harm’. Or they tell me that ‘it didn’t matter, it was only the occasional smack’. However, children tend to become desensitised to this treatment over time.
- Sexual abuse – e.g. the child is exposed to pornography/sexual acts, inappropriate touching of the child or coercing/grooming the child to touch someone else, molesting, incest.
- Neglect – Physical neglect is quite straightforward to identify. The child doesn’t have enough to eat, clothes may be dirty, and so on. It is the failure to meet a child’s basic physical needs.
Emotional neglect on the other hand is more difficult to identify as it is the absence of something intangible – emotional attunement, emotional support, empathy and so on. These should have been there but weren’t, either during a crisis moment or regularly during childhood.
‘Child Abuse’ is an adult term
As challenging as this subject is, the term ‘child abuse’ is an adult term which we do not have a proper understanding of when we are children. We certainly do not process what we are experiencing (often with a trusted adult, a close relative, or a caregiver) when we are children as ‘abuse’. We simply don’t properly understand it, or what it means, in order to be able to process things effectively. It also seems ‘normal’ to us at the time, especially if it is happening in our own home. Active abuse coming from a parent/caregiver further complicates the situation. In such situations, the child may love the adult as well as being fearful of them sometimes. This conflict will very often result in the negative feelings. In addition, some children will completely suppress, deny, disavow, or dissociate the full memory of the events.
Some people who consult me have had previous counselling or other therapy for the abuse / assault / trauma, but they are still struggling with unwanted behaviours or problems. Problems such as anxiety disorders, confidence and self-esteem issues, problems with sex, drink or drugs, weight control problems, emotional problems, and so on. In short, they are suffering with some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. Their symptoms may or may not include visual flashbacks which are a ‘classic’ symptom of PTSD.
The previous therapy may have helped somewhat, or may not have helped at all for whatever reason. So they feel ‘stuck’ somehow and unable to move on properly. This might be because many therapies involve talking things through on an intellectual level and therefore don’t always ‘connect’ to all of the unresolved emotions involved. Having unresolved and conflicting emotions, is generally why people can continue to have problems despite having had previous therapy. People may also hold negative ‘core’ beliefs about the self, (usually held on a subconscious level and/or in the body). Also, many adult victims of child abuse will have developed problems with dissociation. Or they may be suffering from a complex form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD). Both problems require a specific therapy approach.
But it all happened a long time ago
Many adults do not connect their present day problems with their earlier experiences. Instead they may think that they are ‘over all of that now’, or ‘it wasn’t that bad, people have worse’, or ‘it was such a long time ago, it can’t be that’. However, decades of research and studies and recent advances in neuroscience are able to show us the impact on the developing mind of painful, traumatic and abusive experiences. The research also shows the connections and correlations between adverse childhood experiences and a wide range of problems in adulthood.
The same research shows us that we don’t just ‘get over it’ with the passage of time. For more information on this you can, for example, search for the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. This is a USA-based study which contains some elements which perhaps would not apply in the UK but it is otherwise very useful.
What can I do to help?
I have trained in several trauma-informed therapy models. Firstly, Lifespan Integration therapy is very effective for all kinds of trauma – read more here. I am also a certified PICT practitioner. For information on PICT click here. The PICT process was created to specifically help people recover from childhood trauma / abuse. And I have level One accredited EMDR training. I have also had training in working with dissociation and complex PTSD. Please check out the ‘About Me’ page for details. We usually make the decision of the best way forward together during the initial consultation.
RECLAIM YOUR LIFE
Call me now on 07722783490 or 01424 772392 to book your free 30 minute initial consultation.