Should I Continue Therapy?

Reader’s Question

Hi, I see a psychologist for CSA, and I do get help from the sessions, but a lot of times I just curl up and sit there and say nothing. It is to painful to talk about. How does my psychologist know when to talk to me and when not to? A lot of times we just sit there, until I say something. Should I continue with my sessions?

Thanks,
VM

Psychologist’s Reply

As you describe, discussing Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) is emotionally painful. Those memories contain emotions created at the time of the abuse incident — making you relive the events as they are discussed. For this reason, the therapist is allowing you to discuss incidents as you feel emotionally comfortable. The procedure is for your emotional protection. If your therapist were aggressive in questioning about your CSA experiences, you might be emotionally overwhelmed or unprepared for the emotional memory that surfaces.

I’d recommend reading my article on Emotional Memory available on this website. I’d then discuss a strategy for dealing with these memories with your therapist. In clients with CSA, I often encourage them to discuss CSA incidents, but if the emotional memory becomes too intense, they use a phrase or humorous comment such as “Do you think it will snow?” It sounds silly…and that’s the point. That phrase tells us to calm down the emotionality in the discussion, often by briefly discussing something totally irrelevant. When the client is ready to go again, back we go to the CSA incident.

While those emotional memories are intense, it’s important to remember they are brain-recorded memories (and emotions) of a past event — they are not how you are in the present. I’d recommend continuing to work with your therapist. Practice being more aggressive in the session. The more effort you put in, the better the results.

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