Hope For The Journey

How Do You Know
If You Are Getting
GOOD Sexual
Assault Counseling

No one sets out to be sexually assaulted. When it happens, it can make your world crumble. It can also be something you keep hidden like a dirty secret fearing that if you speak about what happened it will make it more real. Seeking treatment is often the last thing on people’s minds because it feels too overwhelming. You worry about being believed. You worry about being judged or being too much. Sometimes people wait for years before deciding they are ready to work through what happened. 

Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you could use some asssitance, the next obstacle is finding someone who can help. With sexual assault or sexual abuse, not all counselors are considered equal. Too often, we hear clients talking about going to counseling for months or even years only to never actually work on the abuse or feeling worse rather than better. It can feel like the therapist is avoiding the topic or, alternatively, that you’re just never going to feel alright with yourself again.

If this has been your experience, our hearts go out to you. But we are hopeful that if you’re reading this it means you haven’t given up all hope. And that is exciting because it turns out that if your therapist has the right training and experience, working through a history of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault is definitely possible. 

At Hope For The Journey, we’ve whittled down good sexual assault counseling into three basic stages: Feel, Heal, & Thrive. This approach aims to heal not only the specific incident of sexual trauma but also the broader impact it has had on the survivor’s overall well-being. We don’t want  you to just be able to talk about what happened without having panic symptoms. We want you to have wonderful, connected relationships, a healthy sex life or relationship with your body, and to feel hopeful and excited about your future. 

Here is a general overview of the process involved in sexual assault counseling using our three-stage approach of Feel, Heal, and Thrive:

Conquering Sexual Assault Phase One = Feel

Our bodies are hard-wired to avoid pain. When you accidentally touch a hot stove, you will snatch back your hand, probably draw in a sharp breath and hold it, and then freeze for a second. You won’t think about it. You’ll just react to get away from the pain. 

So, it makes sense that the first reaction for most after a sexual abuse or sexual assault experience is to avoid, numb, or dissociate. Not only do we want to avoid the pain of the memory; we also want to avoid potential shaming, victim blaming, or pity from others should we talk about it. We want to avoid the emotions and body sensations, too. 

Unfortunately, while this may help initially, this approach doesn’t actually help over time. Sexual trauma can impact how you feel about yourself, your relationship choices, your health, your mental health, and more. Many of our clients don’t even realize all the subtle ways their sexual trauma was impacting them until they started feeling better during treatment. 

This is why our first step is to help you understand, identify, and tolerate feeling. While you may expect to jump right into telling your story, what you actually might experience is your therapist inviting you to hold back at first with what happened and instead focus on how you are feeling now. We know this might sound a little backward, but this is where more general therapy can let clients down. If you don’t focus on making sure you can tolerate the work before you jump in, you will either shut down and it won’t actually work or you’ll be overwhelmed. Neither of these outcomes is acceptable at Hope For The Journey. 


How Long Does the FEEL Phase Take?

Here’s where I hit you with the dreaded answer of “it depends”. Sorry! It would be lovely if this was a simple answer, but the reality is that each person’s experience with sexual trauma is completely unique. It really depends on how guarded your system is against feeling. The more wounded a person is from a sexual trauma, the more extreme their internal working system becomes to protect them. 

So, if you are open, ready, and have good internal and external supports in your life, the FEEL Phase might take 1-6 sessions. If, however, your internal system has needed to be pretty protected, the FEEL Phase might take weeks, months, or even years. During that time, you’ll start to notice real changes in how you feel day to day. You’ll start to gain skills needed to feel in control of managing how you respond to your emotions. You’ll understand yourself with more compassion and feel less out of control. 

Conquering Sexual Assault Phase Two = Heal

Now that you are able to feel and regulate your emotions, we can start easing you into the hard

memories. Therapists like to call this Trauma Processing. You might start with something smaller and build towards the hardest parts, but the HEAL Phase is all about unpacking what happened, understanding how it impacted you, and learning to love yourself and your life even though this bad thing happened. 

At this point in your treatment, you’ll start noticing big changes in your life. You’ll start responding to situations differently and feeling more confident. You’ll start feeling more compassionate towards yourself and might see yourself setting boundaries in toxic relationships. You also might find yourself feeling more open to healthy risks and making deeper, more meaningful relationships. Depression and anxiety symptoms often start shifting significantly in this stage of treatment, and other people start noticing the changes in you. 

How Long Does the HEAL Phase Take? 

Again, this depends. The more complicated your trauma history or the more inundated you have been with shame, the longer this can take. But if we’ve successfully mastered the FEEL Phase, it usually goes faster than you anticipate. Using powerful tools like EMDR or Trauma-Focused CBT, you can move through HEAL in as few as 1-6 sessions or this too might take weeks or months. If it takes longer than that, it is usually because you are toggling back and forth between FEEL and HEAL as you move into more tender parts of the memories.  


Conquering Sexual Assault Phase Three = Thrive

This is where things really start coming together. THRIVE is all about taking what you’ve learned about yourself and generalizing it into other areas of your life. So, if maybe you came into treatment because you were really struggling with sex, you now might be starting to see that your new confidence is leading to new opportunities at work or to you feeling open to adventures and new activities as well. You also have a plan for any future obstacles and situations that are likely to retrigger the sexual trauma. You find yourself needing therapy less and less. You’re ready to simply enjoy your life. 


Is It Really Possible to Heal After Sexual Trauma?

Our experience says yes. It takes courage, work, and a trained trauma therapist, but it is possible to reclaim your life after sexual abuse or assault. Are you ready? Give us a call today and our Client Care Coordinator will help you find a good match. 


Are You or a Loved One Struggling with the Effects of Sexual Trauma?

Our team of caring therapists are ready to help you start your healing journey. Our highly skilled clinicians will welcome you with warmth and understanding. This no longer has to feel like taboo or too “scary” to talk about. To start therapy with Hope For the Journey, please follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact Hope for the Journey
  2. Meet with acaring therapist
  3. Start receiving the support you or your teen deserve.
  4. Begin to Feel, Heal & Thrive!



Other Services Offered At Hope For The Journey

Our team is happy to offer a number of services from our Round Rock and Austin therapy offices. Mental health services include therapy for anxiety and depressiondomestic violencesexual assaultPTSD, and EMDR. Our team also provides support for family members of all ages with counseling for teens and young adultschildren and tweenscouplesmen, and parents/partners. Contact us today to learn more about our team and community involvement!

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