When writing my book it was important to make space for survivors’ experiences of accessing therapy and reporting to the police (in the UK). Early on I decided to include interviews as part of putting the manuscript together, which a colleague helped me with.
Sharing Lived Experience
There are quotes throughout from people who were generous enough to share their experiences to let therapists know what is needed in psychotherapy. Whilst I gained consent from each person to include their quotes in the book, I didn’t share them online at first because I didn’t want to risk reducing their lived experiences to advertising purposes.
I have sometimes made use of the quotes in training to encourage therapists to centre survivors’ experiences in service delivery. The feedback is that this is helpful, especially in not making assumptions on what ‘successful’ therapy looks like or what a ‘survivor’ looks like (as a person or post-trauma symptoms).
Therapy Isn’t Just Symptom Alleviation
The aim in sharing some quotes here and on my Instagram is to show that survivors are not a homogenous group. For therapists this means focusing only on post-trauma symptoms is an incomplete response to a survivor’s needs. In my work I’ve found a reparative value in supporting survivors to have a sense of self they want to live with, along with reducing the psychological and embodied impact of trauma. For some this means giving space to their identity along with lived
What Therapists Need to Know
These survivors want to tell you what is essential when seeing a psychotherapist to recover from sexual violence:
‘My therapist gave me her self, which was much more important than what she said. Her eye contact and body language told me that I was accepted and that she was interested. This meant we could connect. Without that interest, I would’ve been judged. From there I felt everything else could work.’ Rob
‘Psychotherapists and clients should be able to be themselves. They should be able to behave in the ways they feel comfortable and that feel natural without pressure to conform to ideas about how you express yourself in that role.’ Sam
‘What happened to me doesn’t define me, even though it can be at the forefront of my therapy and what I bring to therapy sessions.’ Crystal
‘Feeling safe, being heard, and validated. Having a space where someone was sat with me, letting me work it out.’ Amanda
‘Someone who validates your feelings and normalises your emotional and physical responses to the traumatic events; someone who is truly trauma-informed. They help you to make sense of your reactions and emotions at the time of the event, as well as helping you to understand why you continue to be impacted by it in the present. Providing psycho-education and giving you autonomy empowers you along the way so you can navigate through your feelings and emotions in relation to yourself, the perpetrator, relationships, faith, and culture.’ Tayba
‘I want to say how important the relationship is, rather than a set approach or theoretical way of doing things. What that relationship can give you and focusing on building that more than anything else is the most important thing.’ M
‘My therapist’s willingness to question certain therapeutic boundaries if he could see that these boundaries were becoming barriers to my recovery.’ Anna
For therapists reading please consider: what else can we do as therapists to be led by survivor’s experiences in service delivery?
To hear from other survivors in their own words, visit my Instagram page.