According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, across the United States, about one in five women experience attempted or completed rape within their lifetime. In addition to this, just over 80% of women and just over 40% of men experience some type of sexual assault or harassment in their lives.
Whether you are one of these individuals who has experienced sexual assault or you have a close loved one who has shared their experience with you, you may be wondering how we can deal with and heal from these traumatic experiences.
Realistically, the best way to heal is going to be different for each individual. That said, there are a few different effective therapies that can help you or your loved ones process and heal from their sexual trauma. Today, we are going to dive into eight types of therapy that can be extremely helpful for people suffering from sexual trauma in their lives.
The Best Types of Therapy for Sexual Trauma
So, without further ado, here are the eight best types of therapy for sexual trauma and how they can help individuals facing sexual trauma.
Traditional Talk Therapy
Up first is traditional talk therapy. Talk therapy is often also referred to as psychodynamic therapy and is the type of therapy that most people first think of when they think of therapy. This type of therapy focuses on talking about problems, issues, and traumas with a therapist. In essence, in talk therapy, you are processing these things by acknowledging and talking through them.
When it comes to sexual trauma, talk therapy can be incredibly useful. In our society, we tend to view sex (especially traumatic sexual experiences) with shame or awkwardness. This can cause us to feel less inclined to talk about our trauma and really stall the healing process. Talk therapy helps to get this conversation going. It helps us to think about and recover from our trauma so that we can move forward with our lives without that additional baggage.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
EMDR therapy, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, is a type of mental health treatment technique that can help individuals heal from trauma — including sexual trauma. EMDR involves moving your eyes in a very specific way while processing traumatic experiences that you have faced.
This therapy is an eight-step treatment method — history taking, client preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation. Essentially, the first seven phases of EMDR therapy are the “treatment” phases and the final phase is called reevaluation because it is where you and your therapist will reassess and alter your treatment plan as needed.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help children, adolescents, and their caregivers, overcome trauma-related challenges. This therapy treatment option is typically used for children and other youths who are suffering from trauma — such as sexual abuse, violence, or grief, among others.
TF-CBT was originally developed and geared toward helping children and adolescents who have suffered from sexual abuse. Because of this, it is often the first choice when it comes to helping individuals cope with sexual trauma.
Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Somatic experiencing therapy is another form of therapy that works to help release the trauma and symptoms of trauma that get trapped in the body. Somatic experiencing focuses on helping people increase awareness of their bodies and the stress going on within them. It accomplishes this by focusing on interoceptive, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic sensations.
Individuals who are experiencing trauma, especially something so devastating as sexual trauma, can benefit from somatic therapy’s SIBAM framework, which stands for sensation, imagery, behavior, affect, and meaning. Somatic experiencing professionals use this framework to help people suffering from trauma heal with a bottom-up approach (rather than the more traditional top-down approach that other therapies tend to focus on). This essentially means that somatic experiencing therapy simply focuses on bodily sensations first and comes to thoughts later on in the healing process.
Brainspotting is a type of therapy that utilizes spots in an individual’s visual field to help process and recover from trauma. This alternative therapy method was discovered in 2003 as an advancement of EMDR therapy (which we discussed above). One major difference between brainspotting and EMDR is that the person processing the trauma does not need to relive the trauma in order to release it from their body.
Acting on a similar principle to EMDR and somatic experiencing therapies, that trauma can get stuck in the body, brainspotting works to address trauma by deepening the brain-body connection and releasing physical stress from the body. This is different from the traditional talk therapy top-down method that utilizes conscious thought.
For individuals who are dealing with sexual trauma, the thought of going to a sex therapist may seem incredibly daunting. Sex therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is specifically designed to help people identify and process the sexual challenges in their lives. This can mean finding out how to become more satisfied with your sex life, working through sexual trauma, or any other sex-related issue that you may be facing in your relationship.
This can be an excellent resource for individuals who are having trouble healing from sexual trauma because sex therapists are specialized in this field. Think about it like seeing an orthopedic doctor when you have a leg or back injury instead of seeing your primary care physician. An orthopedic doctor is specialized in the type of pain you are experiencing and can therefore be of more help to you than your normal doctor may be.
Family therapy (and couples therapy) is typically used to help members of a relationship — whether familiar, romantic, or any other type of relationship — overcome communication issues and resolve conflicts. This is not always the first choice when it comes to addressing sexual trauma because, many times, individuals who are trying to cope with sexual trauma do not want to discuss their experiences with their families (or partner).
However, it can be extremely useful for some because it can help ensure positive and productive communication and help the individual suffering from sexual trauma heal in a more supportive environment.
Trauma-Informed Integrative Therapy
The final type of therapy that can be incredibly effective in helping people process sexual trauma is trauma-informed integrative therapy. Now, this particular type of therapy is more a mixture of the aforementioned therapy options rather than an entirely separate form of therapy. This is because it focuses on integrating elements of some or all of the therapy practices mentioned above in order to create the most effective support plan for the individual suffering from the trauma.
This type of therapy is extremely effective because it can be personalized and modified to match the needs of each individual. If you or someone you love is suffering from sexual trauma and is having trouble processing it, one of these therapy options (or a mixture of them) may be just the thing you need to kickstart the healing process.
Please do not hesitate to contact us today at Love Heal Grow to schedule an appointment if you are looking for professional support and guidance through your healing journey.