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#189980 - 11/04/07 09:13 PM Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors
tartugas Offline
Board Member
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 02/11/07
Posts: 513
Loc: NYC
This is a brief synopsis of a talk I was honored to be able to present at the 2007 Male Survivor International Conference in New York. Many of you have heard about it, and I'm happy to be able to share with you the culmination of decades of experience, years of thought, and months of work.

A few brief notes before I post the synopsis itself.

- This is not even close to encompassing all the ideas that are in the talk itself. I am currently turning the talk into a paper, and I hope to be able to share a fuller version with anyone who is interested in the next few weeks.

- These ten things do not even come close to encompassing everything people need to know about us, as I mention in the introduction to my talk, "Think of the ten things as general boundaries setting out the borders of the territory you and your patient will need to explore fully."

- The very nature of this topic may be triggering for some of us. Many, if not most of us have had bad therapeutic experiences. If you find yourself getting upset, please remember to breathe and take a step back from the topic. All these ideas will still be here later, and when you are in a calmer place, you will be better able to internalize and hopefully put some of this knowledge to good use.

- Please, please, please, contact me if you have any questions at all about this. I am more than happy to explain anything I may not have made clear. As I said this is a brief synopsis, not the whole talk.

- Also, please feel free to share your impressions, thoughts, and comments. I want this talk to be representive of all our needs, not just mine. If I'm not addressing something that you think is crucial, please tell me.

Chris

_________________________
"I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self...."
Healing D.H. Lawrence

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#189981 - 11/04/07 09:17 PM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: tartugas]
tartugas Offline
Board Member
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 02/11/07
Posts: 513
Loc: NYC
Ten Things All Therapists Should Know About Survivors


1. We are individuals - No one method of treatment will serve any survivor. The methods that proved so successful for John may actually be counterproductive for Jack, depending on what just happened to Jack, how Jack has dealt with it thus far, and how far along he is - if he is - in his recovery process. The best therapists find ways to combine universally effective methods (e.g. patient listening, helping the survivor create a "safe" place to confront difficult memories and painful emotions, calming and centering exercises) with targeted therapeutic methods that can help the specific challenges each survivor faces (therapies such as gestalt, EMDR, hypnosis, are all therapies I feel are all examples of this latter group). The goal should not be getting someone more comfortable with your style. The goal is to find the best way to open up a dialogue with your client.

2. We will not hear you, at first -- Paradoxically, there are some things that will prove true for just about all survivors. One of the most important things to learn about us, and one of the most confounding to deal with, is that most of us seem to be unable to receive the positive messages and healing instructions that we are given by so many people. It seems that many of us are chronically unable to receive a compliment, and will often respond to positive messages with automatic negation. It is important when trying to initially establish a therapeutic dynamic with a survivor to keep this phenomenon in mind. Attempting to aggressively counteract a survivor's defensive negativity can actually be counterproductive, and may only serve to alienate the vulnerable survivor further. Friends, family, and even some of you in the therapeutic community can therefore sometimes write us off as hopeless cases, thinking that the only thing to do is prescribe antidepressants and wait for the brain chemistry to change enough so that positive actions can be taken. While this approach might be effective with some people, the danger of writing off those who can be helped is far too great, especially when a little more patience is all that is called for. Patient repetition is what is called for. Think of yourselves as farmers struggling to get a crop to take root in particularly arid soil.

3. - 6. H.A.L.T. - A helpful mnemonic to remind us all how important it is to slow down and take our time when dealing with the needs of survivors. It is vital that survivors understand and accept these feelings if they are to move forward.

a. (3.) HUNGRY We are Hungry, if not starved for love, support, and emotional nourishment, but as with all who starve, our thoughts and actions are affected by our lack of nourishment.

b. (4.)ANGRY We are Angry about our experiences, even if we don't yet know how to get in touch with that. A great help in any course of therapy is finding ways to let that anger surface where it can be dealt with in a supervised, safe environment.

c. (5.)LONELY Our experiences have left us feeling isolated and alone inside, regardless of how many friends or lovers we have. As such, an effective therapist will need to find ways to build trust that circumvent the defenses already put up by the survivor.

d. (6.) TIRED We are tired of fighting ourselves every day and fighting our memories. As a result progress will at times seem achingly slow to us, although it may seem rapid to you. Fatigue is something we should be warned about. We need to be reminded that it's ok to take a break from healing now and then, and that this does not mean that we will regress to the place we were before.

7. Doctors don't heal patients. Patients heal themselves. Doctors and therapists certainly do play a vital, necessary, and powerful role in recovery, but the work of healing is something that can only be done by the patient themselves. Also, the damage caused by abuse will spread far and wide throughout the spirit and the body. Most of us have built up barricades between our minds and our bodies, and a big part of the healing process will involve carefully taking down those barricades. What we need from you is clear information about what is happening to us, so that we can begin to notice the patterns of thought and behavior that dominate our lives. As we begin to see ourselves more clearly, we will be better prepared to undergo the challenges of recovery. Also, therapy is different from most medical disciplines in that it is an additive process as opposed to a subtractive one. For example, an oncologist looks to remove a tumor, while a therapist must put certain things back into their patient (confidence, social skills, self-reliance) that their experiences kept them from developing on their own.

8. Repetition Yes, I know I already mentioned this. But it bears repeating (!) The emotional, and sometimes physical, scars left behind by our abusers are so powerful that we will need to hear the positive messages of healing and self-empowerment many, many times before they will start to take hold. Many survivors have been so betrayed and/or abandoned by the people who were supposed to look out for them that we have put up powerful internal blocks to the messages of healing.

9. We are NOT vampires - The sexual abuse of children is SO abhorrent to most people, that it seems to disable their critical reasoning. Thus many fall prey to the "Vampire Myth". Essentially, this is the belief that the experience of abuse automatically dooms the victim to relive his experiences over and over again to the point of reenacting his abuse upon others later on down the line. Human history is filled with traditions of punishing the victims. This only serves to perpetuate the harm to victims by punishing victims with a further stigma, and one that they are almost powerless to wash off of themselves. We need you, the professionals, to stand up and speak out with the authority you have in the culture against this dangerous prejudice.

10. We are watching you - We are studying you just as intently as you are us. Victims quickly develop the kind of observational skills that poker players thrive on. We can see the slightest change in facial expression, tone, and posture and instantly come to conclusions about your state of mind, your judgments, and your opinions that may or not be true. The problem here isn't the judgments we're making so much as the instantaneous way in which we make them. We come to conclusions so quickly, we don't allow ourselves the time to process and properly analyze the information we are taking in. In addition, we will make everything self-referential. We will take responsibility for everything that goes on around us, making ourselves "guilty" of causing everyone else's behavior. Also, unless pressed, we will not tell you what we have concluded, so it would be wise to check in with us from time to time and make sure that the ideas and messages you are trying to communicate to us are the ones we are taking in.






Edited by tartugas (11/05/07 08:20 PM)
_________________________
"I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self...."
Healing D.H. Lawrence

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#189994 - 11/04/07 10:33 PM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: tartugas]
dgoods Offline
Guest

Registered: 10/15/07
Posts: 622
Loc: Richmond area
very good post, i like #'s 8 and 10 especially, thx!

_________________________
Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Sc. III

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#189997 - 11/04/07 10:48 PM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: tartugas]
Army Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 06/27/07
Posts: 90
Loc: California
tartugas,

Thanks for giving a voice to the surviors in therapy. Your thoughts will help many.

Army

_________________________
07 Peebbles WOR Alummni

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#190015 - 11/05/07 06:40 AM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: Army]
MemoryVault Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 693
Loc: NJ
Thanks, Chris --

Those are great points. Many of them really hit home for me. Can't wait to read the full article!

David


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#190022 - 11/05/07 08:57 AM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: MemoryVault]
WalkingSouth Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/30/05
Posts: 16263
Chris,

Awesome job. It would appear you represented us very well at the conference. I'm looking forward to reading the full version.

Lots of love,

John

_________________________
“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy ____…! What a ride!’” ~Hunter S. Thompson

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#190030 - 11/05/07 09:53 AM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: WalkingSouth]
KENKEN Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/25/07
Posts: 762
Loc: NOTHERN COLORADO
Chris:
Great job. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with MS.

_________________________
I AM A GOOD PERSON, I AM A GOOD MAN

From the Movie: Antwone Fisher

***WOR ALUMNI SEQUOIA MARCH 2008***

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#190138 - 11/06/07 03:32 AM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: KENKEN]
BJK Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/02/07
Posts: 1526
Hmm...seems we should perhaps change the title of this thread to "Ten Things Survivors Should Know About Themselves".

\:\)

Bryan

_________________________
Revenge is nothing more than another way of perpetuating abuse.

What the world needs now
Is some new words of wisdom
Like la la la la la la la la la.
-David Lowery

Having a friend who will keep a secret for you is worthless compared to a friend who won't keep a secret from you.

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#190209 - 11/06/07 02:19 PM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: BJK]
tartugas Offline
Board Member
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 02/11/07
Posts: 513
Loc: NYC
Oh don't worry Bryan, I'm thinking about that one too. ;\)

_________________________
"I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self...."
Healing D.H. Lawrence

Top
#190486 - 11/08/07 06:45 PM Re: Ten Things Therapists Should Know About Surviviors [Re: tartugas]
Gerald2007 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 157
Loc: Southeastern US
Chris,
Let me add my accolades to those already posted. I also agree with Bryan that I can take your points to heart for me.

I am also gratified that "we" are able to talk back our Ts. Sometimes it doesn't seem that they are listening...at best. Or at worst put their own agenda above our recovery.

Gerald

_________________________
Alumnus: Weekend of Recovery - Dahlonega, May 2008 and May 2009
We are bound together by the pain of the past and our hopes for the future.

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