Week 8. Healing sexual energy: How can we work with a person that was sexually abused? Copy

Healthy sexual functioning can be a life enhancing experience that uplifts, inspires, and encourages creativity, joy, and pleasure. Unhealthy sexual experiences though — abuse, trauma, and dysfunction — can lead to depression, lifelessness, despair, negativity, and disassociation from the body. These symptoms can be controlled and eventually eliminated through specific therapeutic practices. 

A survivor of abuse must be able to identify the trauma they have experienced, be able to control their reactions and responses to the trauma, be able to use the trauma to recognise its effects on different life experiences, and be ready to adjust and make positive changes to their life. It is important for survivors to know they cannot began to heal, change, and move forward in life without taking the necessary steps to confront the initial, root problem of traumatic life experiences and the effects of it.

To start the healing process a victim must transition into viewing themselves as a survivor and not a victim. Trainers and facilitators should encourage survivors to confront detailed events surrounding the trauma, including the distressful memories (including images) of their experiences at a pace that is comfortable for the survivor. 

This approach places the survivor in a position to gain control of the situation that has already occurred, by controlling their thoughts about that situation. As a result the survivor becomes clearer in rationalizing the decisions they made at the time of the traumatic event and can now replace them with more positive and appropriate reactions and responses. This gradual process decreases symptoms of depression, loss of control, anxiety, anger, and frustration and creates better opportunities for healing to take place.

Current neuroscience research studies confirm that early life stress and anxiety as experienced by survivors of sexual abuse have a powerful impact on the brain and behaviour. The neuroplasticity of the brain is a powerful change agent. With the safety of a trained coach who is able to listen compassionately, with empathy, acceptance, presence, and non-judgment, the therapeutic alliance can be helpful as the survivor develops and nurtures a strong sense of personal agency and integration as wounds are transformed. Loving support can sustain the self-healing mechanisms of the body as brain chemistry changes.

Group therapy is amongst one of the most productive ways to expose clients to other survivors of abuse. Many clients feel alone and often do not have anyone they feel can relate to them. Group therapy can help ease and calm a client’s fears. Group therapy assists people with developing continuous hope when coping and recovering from abuse. Clients get to see first hand how others are healing from abuse and realise that they are not alone. As a result, clients may develop positive thoughts and behaviours.

In the continuation of this article, there are specific instructions which are provided on the basis of which trainers and facilitators can conduct sessions with people who have been sexually abused:

WORKSHOP 1

Relaxation – safe place

Goal:                                 Finding and creating a place for self-support

Method:                          Guided fantasy / Painting 

Time duration:              90 minutes

Materials:                       Computer/Speakers/Music Colours/Paper

Workshop Description:

The guide explains that during the exercise they will use words to guide the participants through their own thoughts. Participants are instructed to relax, make themselves comfortable, put all things aside, let their thoughts flow and allow their imagination to lead them wherever it wants.

At the beginning, the participants are asked to sit as comfortably as possible, and that they can change their position during the exercise. They can close their eyes or focus their gaze on a neutral spot in front of them. Be sure to make it clear that they can stop the exercise at any time, especially if they feel unsafe, insecure, or uncomfortable. Their flow of imagination goes to the extent at which they feel good with these contents, and if they feel restless or some other kind of discomfort, they should stop the exercise and do for themselves what they feel they need (if necessary, ask for help). 

It’s okay if someone does not want to continue but they must try not to disturb others. If the images don’t start popping up, that’s fine. Some people just need more time or practice to connect with their imagination and relax.

Note to guides: Play relaxing music, speak in a clear and gentle voice. Take your time, and speak slowly.

Guided fantasy – Safe place:

“Sit comfortably. If you can and want to, close your eyes. Feel your body. Can you feel your heartbeat? Do you feel any tension? Try to relax the parts of the body where tension is present. Focus on all parts of your body until you are completely relaxed. Then pay attention to your breathing. Feel your breathing go on continuously, on its own. Feel the air enter your lungs and come out again. Feel the rhythm of your breathing.

Imagine being filled with new energy, flowing through your entire body with each new breath you take. Imagine the tension and pressure coming out of you with each exhalation. Continue like this, inhale energy and light, exhale tension and pain. 

Now imagine you’re going for a walk. Take it easy, don’t rush anywhere. The day is beautiful and sunny; everything around you is filled with light. You see nature, colours, smell beautiful scents and hear beautiful sounds.

Your steps lead you to a place you know well; it is your special place where you feel safe and protected.

Maybe it’s a place somewhere outdoors, maybe it’s a house, or a room, maybe there’s another person there, or maybe it’s a part of you. No one knows about this special place, only you. When you arrive there, give yourself time, look around, feel what it is like to be safe and feel protected. 

You feel calm. Only you can understand how much this place means to you. Take a look around and soak up every detail so you can remember it and take it with you. Stay in that place as long as you want. When you are ready you can say goodbye, and if it is a room, close the door. 

You can go back the same way, knowing that this place will still be there for you every time you want it, that it will be waiting for you. It’s a place where no one can hurt you, where no one can find you. 

When the time comes, slowly return. Don’t rush. Maybe you want to look at your safe place from a distance. Slowly, you should become aware of the room you are in now. Before you open your eyes again, remember the pictures. Then slowly open your eyes and return to the room.”

The guide turns off the music. Participants are asked to take sheets of paper and draw, without words, what they experienced during the guided fantasy. They are asked to draw their safe place.

After all participants have completed their drawings, they will return to a large group where each of them will present their work and say something related to their safe place. During the conversation with the participants, the guides encourage each person to say how they felt during the exercise. Some have probably not been able to relax, but they should not feel bad or think they have failed. Some participants may feel insecure when trying to relax in the presence of others.

Note to guides: It can be very comforting when a participant realises that it is possible to find a safe place within themselves. After some experience with this exercise, the same result can be achieved without the guidance from someone. However, take into account the fact that for some people this type of relaxation can be frightening, and that the pictures that appear can be negative, and remind them of traumatic events. If this happens, help the participant find another place within themselves. Keep in mind that it is important for the participant to decide for themselves about their safe place. Let them choose their place on their own, without suggestions. At the end of the session, the guide can invite participants to say only one word that describes their current state, mood or thinking and thus end the session.

WORKSHOP 2

Relaxation

Goal:                                 Awareness of one’s own resources, identity, relaxation

Method:                          Guided fantasy / Drawing 

Time Duration:             90 minutes 

Materials:                       Relaxing music/Paper Colours

Workshop Description 

Guided fantasy “Tree”

The guide explains that during the exercise words will be used to guide the participants through their own thoughts. Participants are instructed to relax, be somewhere where they are comfortable, put all things aside, let their thoughts flow and allow their imagination to lead them wherever it wants. 

Participants are asked to sit as comfortably as possible and told they can change their position during the exercise. They can close their eyes or focus their gaze on a neutral spot in front of them. 

Be sure to emphasise that they are allowed to stop the exercise at any time, especially if they feel unsafe, insecure, or uncomfortable. If they feel restless or some other kind of discomfort, they should stop the exercise and do for themselves what they feel they need (if necessary, ask for help). 

It’s okay if they don’t want to continue but they must try not to disturb others. 

If the images don’t appear, that’s fine. Some people just need more time or practice to connect with their imagination and relax.

Note to guides: Play relaxing music, speak in a clear and gentle voice. Take your time, and speak slowly.

Guided fantasy/text: Tree

“Focus on your breathing, follow the air as it enters through your nostrils, fills your body and then exits through your mouth. At this point all attention is focused on your breathing, breathing is life, breathe in your own rhythm, count to 5 as you inhale, then hold your breath as you count to 5 and then again count to 5 as you exhale. 

Choose your own rhythm, breathe slowly and be aware of your breathing, the surface on which you are sitting or lying, your body, you are calm and relaxed. If some thoughts come to you at the moment, don’t hold them back, let them in and out and breathe and be aware of your breathing. 

And now we will go for a walk in nature, imagine you’re walking along a path that leads through the forest. All around you are trees, whose canopy rises high, pay attention to them and the green leaves that slightly flicker… the sun’s rays break through the canopy, breathe in the smells, the freshness of the forest, listen to the sounds, listen to what you can hear. 

Your attention is drawn to a tree, you approach it and observe it, you touch the bark of the tree with your palms and look up at the canopy, notice how big the canopy is, how much shade it makes, notice the branches, the leaves, whether there is a bird or a nest. Does your tree have any fruits in the canopy? Imagine its roots, how deep it is in the ground, hug your tree and lean your cheek against the tree, can you hear anything, is it telling you anything, thank it and slowly return to your room…“ 

After the guided fantasy is over, the participants are asked not to talk, and are asked to take a sheet of paper and draw the tree that they imagined. 

When they have finished drawing, participants are asked to write a story in ME form, from the point of view of the tree, e.g. “I am a tree that has lived in the forest for 100 years… etc.” They can write the story on the other side of the paper from their drawing. 

After everyone has finished their drawings and stories, return to the large group, where each participant can show their tree and read their story, but if someone doesn’t want to do this, they don’t have to do it. 

The guide invites participants to share their experiences of how much they could relate to the tree and what they recognised in the tree as their traits. The guides should explain to the participants that the tree is a symbol of identity and that they can connect it with themselves, their characteristics and skills. 

At the end, each participant can say one sentence that depicts how they currently feel or something they became aware of during the exercise.

Sign in

Join InnerCamp

New to our community?

Sign up now!

Join InnerCamp