Individual therapy and family counseling plays a vital role in healing from the trauma of abuse. It is in the sharing of the experience that healing begins.

The Victim Assistance Program provides guidance for you in determining the best course of treatment.  Your experience is unique to you and the assistance you receive should be based on your specific needs. Some possible avenues of treatment are outpatient therapy (individual and/or family), inpatient programs, addiction counseling and group counseling.

Information about Therapy and Therapists

At difficult times in our lives it may become necessary to seek the input of a trained professional whose expertise and knowledge of coping skills and psychological issues can aid and assist one in dealing with the pressures of life. Therapy sessions are usually designed to be 55-60 minutes per week, or more frequently if needed.

Commonly Asked Questions about Therapy

Why Do People Go to Short-Term Therapy (2-6 Months)?

People normally enter short-term therapy because of a crisis or transition in their life. They are seeking advice on how to handle a situation or on how to make a decision.

Why Do People Go to Long-Term Therapy (6 Months Plus)?

People normally enter long-term therapy so they can heal more deeply seated emotional pain. It is a time when they try to understand and get direction on what caused the crisis in their lives.

How Do I Know If I Need Therapy?

There are several ways to determine if you need therapy:

  • If you hear close friends, a teacher, guidance counselor or parish priest encouraging you to consider therapy, it is probably wise to listen to their advice.
  • If you begin to see patterns of behavior that interfere with relationships, work performance or goal achievement, consider a consultation to determine if further therapy is needed.
  • If you are experiencing intense feelings that cause you or others disturbance, it is usually beneficial to check out what is happening with a competent therapist.
  • If you are experiencing a difficult time in your life and feeling that you have reached a plateau and are unable to make a decision, it is a good time to consider therapy.
  • If you know that something in your past or family has caused you great distress and has not been resolved, therapy can be a helpful solution.
  • If you keep on doing the same thing but get the same undesirable results with nothing working out the way you planned, it is time to see a therapist.

Why Should Survivors of Sexual Abuse Seek Therapy?

It is important to identify the coping behaviors that are used to survive the abuse. Therapy is imperative in order to avoid Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Without therapy there are other coping behaviors that one might develop that are destructive to self and others, such as substance abuse, aggressive behaviors and compulsive or avoidant sexual behaviors. These behaviors serve to keep the person alive, functioning and away from the painful emotions and memories of their trauma. However, these behaviors also keep the victim from dealing with the abuse directly. It is important to blend healthy coping skills with the acknowledgment that the victim will now begin to process and work through the abuse with a professional therapist.

Sometimes untreated victims of sexual abuse develop clinically significant disorders, such as Sexual Addictions or Dysfunctions, Major Depressive Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Substance-Related Disorders, Eating Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Without immediate professional assistance, the victim often develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which requires long–term therapy. If left untreated, individuals can experience impairments in social and occupational functioning. Examples include isolation/withdrawal, phobias, aggression, poor work performance, disturbed interpersonal relationships, thoughts of suicide and actual attempted suicide.

Should the Family of a Survivor Get Therapy?

Family members may find themselves feeling overwhelmed and at a loss when they learn a child has been sexually abused. Often they feel guilt and shame for not knowing that the child was being abused and feel guilty for failing to protect the child from the perpetrator. Since the majority of perpetrators often know their victims, sometimes a parent may have actually trusted the perpetrator with the care of the child. Deep feelings of rage and betrayal may be debilitating. By providing information on the dynamics, effects and impact of sexual assault and the selection of victims by perpetrators, therapy can help family members understand and accept that any victim of sexual abuse is not to blame, nor is the family. It is the perpetrator who is at fault.

Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. If you have a loved one, especially a child, struggling to cope with recent or past abuse, he/she needs your support. You also need courage, strength and acceptance to get beyond what your family has experienced. A caring, believing, supportive parent who is in the process of healing through therapy is crucial to a child’s recovery.

How Can I Find the Right Therapist for My Situation?

Academic degrees are important, but it is best to know a potential therapist’s focus, develop a level of trust with them and have a basic sense that this therapist can help you or your loved one. If you and the therapist do not have a rapport, the therapy may not be effective. This is also a key factor for children and teens.

If someone has had success with a therapist, it may be a sign that they can be helpful to you. Concentrate your search for a therapist on those who have treated people with problems similar to those you face. Sometimes a therapist works closely with particular populations such as adolescents, couples, or people of particular religious backgrounds.

Suggested Questions to Ask before Selecting a Therapist

  • What level of education does the therapist have?
  • What kind of license does the therapist have?
  • What kind of experience does the therapist have with my specific issue?
  • Is the therapist a male or a female? Does this matter to me?
  • Is language an issue?
  • Is the therapist’s approach compatible with my spiritual values and the teachings of the Catholic Church?
  • If the treatment is for a child or a teen, will the therapist include the parents in the process?
  • What provisions are made for emergency situations during the night, weekend and off-hours?
  • How many sessions are typical/expected in this type of case?
  • What is the fee structure? Does the therapist accept insurance reimbursement?
  • Is there a sliding scale to determine fees?

How Do I Get My Child, Especially Teens, to Come to Therapy?

Some teens desire therapy, but many are resistant. It is necessary at times to insist that a child or a teen go to therapy. Natural rapport and a good relationship with a therapist holds true for children as well as adults. If after four to six sessions, the child is not able to experience this rapport with the therapist you may want to look for another person who might more effectively assist him/her. The therapist should include the parents/guardians in some way in the process of therapy.

Common Methods of Therapy

Choosing a type of therapy will be different for each person. Listed below are some of the major types of therapy of which people avail themselves.

Individual Therapy

Therapist and client meet one on one to address existing problems/issues that have either internal or external causes. The therapist provides feedback, uses appropriate confrontation, empathy and provides analysis regarding the core of the presenting issues in order to effect positive change.

Marriage Therapy

Marriage therapy works with the dynamics in the couple relationship. The therapist works with both individuals towards that goal. No secrets are kept by the therapist for one spouse against the other. The marriage itself is the main focus and methods of healing and being constructive within the marriage are explored to effect positive change.

Family Therapy

Family influences the way we interact and communicate with others. This type of therapy comes from the perspective that a person is deeply influenced by the system in which they live. In this type of therapy, the provider might work with all family members, both individually and as a group. The therapist reinforces the constructive aspects of the system and the individual and helps create changes to the destructive elements.

Group Therapy

The therapist works with a group of clients who share similar issues. The goal of group therapy is to promote understanding of the underlying causes of symptoms and to enhance compassion in others.

Play Therapy

The therapist incorporates play and art therapy with younger children to assist them in verbalization of their feelings and thoughts.

Support Groups

A support group is usually a small gathering of individuals who share similar struggles. Through support groups people can share their experiences, strengths and hopes with one another. Support Groups exist for male and female victims of sexual abuse throughout the state of Georgia. Support groups may or may not be led by trained therapists. Always check to see that a support group has a formal connection to an authorized program or therapist.

Addiction Counseling: 12-Step Programs

These groups normally meet to help members handle addiction issues such as eating disorders, out-of-control emotions, sexual addiction or substance abuse. 12-Step programs along with in-patient or out-patient treatment programs are the treatment of choice for those with addiction problems.

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