Archive for January 29th, 2009

One question that many child abuse survivors have is how long they are going to have to stay in therapy. The answer to this question is as varied as those who seek therapy. Some people will only feel the need to work with a therapist for a few months while others will still be seeing a therapist several years later. So, I cannot give you a definitive answer about how long you will be in therapy.

My therapist said that I covered about two years worth of therapy during the first six months. He told me multiple times to “slow down” the pace of my healing, but I was like a runaway frieght train. While some people think that covering two years worth of therapy in six months sounds great, I would not recommend it. I was physically and emotionally exhausted during this time because my entire life was consumed by the healing process.

Once I slowed down my pace, my therapist moved me to biweekly sessions. (I was seeing him weekly during the first six months.) This went on for about 18 months. After that, we cut down to every 3-4 weeks and then “as needed.” I have seen my therapist 3 or 4 times since I officially ended therapy. He has always been clear that he is here if I need him. He is always just a phone call away. This helped me to have the courage to “fly” on my own.

Over at Isurvive, my favorite message board for child abuse survivors, I had a mentor who was about three years ahead of me along her healing journey. She stayed in therapy long after I chose to stop. It was not that she “needed” her therapist to get through her life, but she found it helpful to have her therapist to talk through different issues that arose in her day-to-day life. I used friends to fill this same role.

Am I more “healed” than she is? Absolutely not. We both chose different paths regarding our therapist’s role in our lives, but we both succeeded in healing and are continuing to heal on deeper and deeper levels.

I often meet people, both online and offline, who have been in therapy for many years without feeling like they are making a lot of progress along their healing journey. Most of those people tend to be fighting their truths and choosing not to love themselves. The key to the healing process is learning how to love yourself. Encompassed in loving yourself is accepting your experiences and expressing your emotions. A person can see a therapist weekly for 20 years but will not succeed in healing from the child abuse until she reaches the place of choosing to love herself.

If you want to speed along your healing process and shorten your time in therapy, then choose to face your truths. Accept that each memory is yours, even if it is held by an alter part. Choose to love and accept each memory, emotion, and feeling as “yours,” and work through all of those memories, emotions, and feelings.

Yes, it is very hard work, but it is the only way to make progress along your healing journey. As you learn how to do this for yourself, you will no longer need to spend so much time in therapy. Yes, your therapist is an important part of healing, but you are the most important part. Your therapist cannot choose healing for you. Only you have the power to learn how to love yourself and heal.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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