There are many ways you can seek to overcome the effects of child abuse. Here are some of the ways we suggest;
Over previous years, it was generally believed that if you talk about your experience, this was the best way of trying to come to terms with it and get some form of closure. Whilst talking about such a traumatic experience as child abuse may be the last thing that you would wish to do, it was thought that providing you were ready and could trust the person that you were confiding in, this would help you to come to terms with what had happened to you.
However, psychiatrists now commonly advise survivors of child abuse that counseling may not be the answer to overcome the effects and in fact, that it may make matters worse. It is believed that by exposing you to a series of counseling sessions over a long period of time, that this may actually exacerbate the effects and expose you to further trauma by the need to go over and over what had happened. By talking through your experiences, there could be an increased likelihood of flashbacks or nightmares as the memories would be brought back into your conscious mind and force your to replay them.
Clearly, people deal with trauma in different ways and whilst talking experiences through may help one individual, it could hinder another.
So, what are the alternatives?
If you go to see your GP, they can refer you to a local psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist. It is likely that if you have suffered long term childhood abuse, they will consider whether you are now suffering a complex form of post traumatic stress disorder.
At Jordans Solicitors, we regularly instruct expert psychiatrists and psychologists to report on how clients can overcome the effects of their abuse. We can now see that the following approaches are the most widely recommended approaches in overcoming abuse:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Put simply, this therapy aims at transforming negative ways of thinking into positive ones. It tries to eliminate the negative feelings associated with your experience and find positive ways of helping you find solutions which will help you react and behave in a positive way when these associations are triggered. It helps you identify what can trigger the negative associations in the first place to help you deal with your feelings. Therefore, its focus is on developing better coping strategies to help overcome avoidance behaviours and flashbacks.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a very modern, complex therapy. You are asked to recall the traumatic experience whilst making rhythmic eye movements that are designed to stimulate the information processing system in the brain.
Normally, individuals process disturbing experiences naturally. However, if the experience has been severely traumatic, the process can be overloaded and it is thought that the original disturbing experience remains unprocessed and stored to be continually brought to the fore when you experience triggers. Therefore, the negative experience is trapped in the nervous system. EMDR works in a similar way to rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. It unlocks the negative memories which have been stored up to help the brain to process the experience. EMDR then allows you to choose how to deal with the experience by gaining self-knowledge and perspective rather than having feelings of being without any control.
Both CBT and EMDR are now widely recommended as the best course of treatment to overcome the effects of child abuse by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). Usually 8 -12 weeks of sessions are recommended, sometimes more.
However, there are some additional options (not recommended by NICE):
A psychotherapist will assist you into a state of deep relaxation and then you will be asked to imagine watching yourself watching a film of the traumatic events. You can then rewind and replay it as many times as you wish. As you are watching a film, the concept is that you can remain distant from the memory and as you repeatedly replay the events, the memory becomes stored in your ‘back memory’ rather than in your ‘conscious memory’ where it can impact on you in daily life. Eventually, by replaying it over and over, it is believed that you will start to lose any emotion that you feel over the scenes that your are watching. The advantage of this technique is that you do not actually have to talk to the therapist to benefit from the treatment.
Some people may benefit from medication such as antidepressants. However, these can be addictive and should be used with caution and only on the recommendation of a doctor or psychiatrist. They should not be offered as first line course of treatment.
Whichever form of help you seek, support and advice should be provided to help you rebuild your life.