Sexual and Physical Abuse Recovery Story
To honor our confidentiality commitment to our clients, the story below used the fictional name of “Linda.” “Linda” worked with Sheryl Johnson, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (MA, LCPC) at Catherine J. Hunter & Associates.
What initiated counseling?
Linda had just ended a three-year relationship and experienced a miscarriage. She was devastated and realized help was needed to deal with the pain, confusion, and depression that she felt. She found a warm and caring environment when she met with Sheryl Johnson at Catherine J. Hunter & Associates.
What did Linda discover?
Additional history came out as Linda discussed her life. She had witnessed a murder at 3-4 years old, was molested three times between the ages of 7 to 17, and had been raped at 18 years old. She had also experienced physical and verbal abuse from her parents and boyfriend. These events, in addition to the recent relationship break-up and miscarriage, had caused anger, depression, anxiety, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
How did the counseling sessions work?
“Sheryl helped me slowly peel off the layers in a very safe environment,” said Linda. “Today, I can talk about what I experienced without crying and manage the big feelings and painful memories.”
Sheryl and Linda focused on: processing the past; setting healthy boundaries; aligning feelings, and personal values; changing unhealthy thinking patterns; developing healthy coping tools; and setting realistic goals.
“Sheryl worked with my unique personality. I am an artsy person, so she had me work with colors and drawings to express myself,” said Linda. “If one of my trauma areas starts playing over and over in my head, I draw a picture of what I wish was happening, such as being rescued when my mother was beating me. Visually going to a safe place helps me shift to a more positive focus.”
Counseling also helped Linda learn how to manage PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. “With flashbacks, I would sometimes find myself outside rolled up in a ball on the ground and not know what was happening. Sheryl taught me techniques to deal with those moments, including feeling my feet on the ground, absorbing myself in the present moment, using relaxation techniques, and staying connected with positive thoughts,” explained Linda. EMDR (eye movement desensitization and processing), a proven therapy method to desensitize a traumatic event through eye movement, was also effective to help Linda recover from the worst moments of her past traumas in a way that was calming and life-changing.
How did counseling help you with the most difficult changes?
It was very difficult for Linda to break the cycle of blaming herself. “In the Wildflowers group therapy program, which Sheryl facilitates for women who have suffered sexual trauma, has been a huge help in dealing with my shame,” said Linda. “Meeting other women with the same feelings and having them support you is phenomenal.” Group therapy helped Linda experience healthy forgiveness of herself and others.
Linda recommends that everyone truly take the time needed to heal and do the work needed during the healing process.
“It will be hard and scary, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel of chaos. You will learn that you are not alone,” said Linda. “Have faith in yourself. You are stronger than you know. You can heal, move forward, and find joy in your life.”
How has counseling changed her life?
Among many changes, two areas really stand out for Linda. “Sheryl led me back to Christ. I am still mad at God occasionally, but my heart is now more open to grace and love,” said Linda. “God is more present in my life.” The other area is recognizing joy. “Sheryl heard a special note in my voice as I was talking about my dog one day,” said Linda. “She helped me recognize my love for animals, and I was able to lean into this passion area as a healing tool in my life. She helped me find joy again by directing me toward areas that fit with my own gifts, passions, and temperament.”