Hypnotherapy to help with male sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is an area that affects men and women equally, however, an individual will rarely come forward about the sexual abuse. Understandably this is due to the pain that this invokes, as well as other emotions being involved such as shame and self-blame.
There has been a lot of publicity recently about the importance of men's mental health and trying to encourage men to open up about their struggles with mental health; expressing their emotions.
So can hypnotherapy help with regards to male sexual abuse?
The short answer is yes it can. However, it is important to emphasise that hypnotherapy would not be the ideal treatment if used alone. Due to the nature of male sexual abuse and trauma, it would have to be combined with talking therapy to efficiently process the trauma and also look at developing the person's concept of self away from the abuse. Trauma is very much like an atomic bomb - the initial blast is horrible but the after-effects can be worse, as it affects and creeps up into every aspect of your life.
Trauma affects individuals in a magnitude of ways, as the past haunts the individual. Some symptoms of trauma are;
- poor sense of self
- negative self-soothing such as alcohol, drugs, and sex are used as methods of coping with psychological trauma
- anger and aggression
- intimacy issues - there can be issues with rejection in an intimate or a close relationship. Where you may feel the person is going to constantly leave you or hurt you in some way, this can even be issued in regards to sexual intimacy where the concept of sex with another person be anxiety-provoking. However, it can go the other way where an individual can become promiscuous as the concept of self-worth is linked with sexual intimacy
- instability in relationships
- self-harming as a method of coping with trauma
- flashbacks of the trauma
- problems tolerating distress
These are just some of the symptoms and effects of trauma that you may be experiencing, but there may be others that I haven't mentioned that you are experiencing as trauma is such a huge topic and is personal to every individual.
As a hypnotherapist that works with trauma and sexual abuse, there are a lot of misconceptions about what hypnotherapy can do for trauma, and I want to clear this up.
Can I get rid of the memories of trauma using hypnotherapy?
When used in a combination with talking therapy, hypnotherapy can help process the memories of trauma; but it cannot repress them. Repressing memories can potentially cause massive psychological damage, as the mind needs time to process trauma. This has to be done carefully so that the memories can be processed and integrated safely. No ethical therapist would offer to repress memories of trauma.
Does this mean I am going to be in therapy forever?
No. However, it does take a long time to completely work with everything and to make sure that everything has been worked with. The best estimate is between two-three years of work to get a good place and completely work with the trauma, and to make sure that it is integrated effectively. This gives you and the therapist time to work on all the areas that the trauma affected, such as your sense of self, relationships, intimacy issues, and any anxiety and depression or emotional regulation issues that may be present.
This is not to say that you will not feel better during this time, though people can feel better after just a few sessions. This is just to make sure everything is effectively treated and worked with, but it does take some time.
Can therapy make me worse?
The point of therapy is not to make you feel worse but is to improve your quality of life. It is a big misconception that trauma is worked with straight away in therapy; this isn't always the case. There is a massive risk of re-traumatisation, and it’s also a matter of respecting your boundaries within therapy. Respect that you may not be ready to work with it, to begin with. However, you can work collaboratively with your therapist to develop the necessary skills and positive psychological resources that would be helpful. With this help with processing the trauma, you can work with the trauma when you are ready.
Will my therapist use regression?
I don’t use regression and have never used regression in my work with clients, as there are many other options available to work within trauma.
How does hypnotherapy help with cases of sexual abuse and what techniques will my therapist use?
Your therapist will probably use a mix of talking therapies, as well as hypnotherapy. So, an example of this would be using a talking therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on the thoughts and beliefs that may have developed from the traumatic event that happened. Numerous types of talking therapies would be helpful, however.
Ego-strengthening: This is a technique that is used in hypnotherapy to help build positive resources such as confidence, resiliency, and managing your mood. Ego strengthening would help you develop a greater sense of positive well-being.
Parts therapy/ego state therapy: This is an effective method used in combination with hypnotherapy to work with parts of the unconscious so this could address certain areas such as substance misuse, relationships, and how you can interact and relate with people and many more areas.
Grounding: Your therapist would also go through grounding techniques and perhaps use forms of grounding techniques with hypnotherapy to enhance the effect. Grounding is a term used to help you re-orientate to the present and be able to focus at this moment. This is important with the nature of trauma and if you happen to experience ruminations (e.g. stuck in a negative cycle of thinking) or flashbacks (e.g. intense intrusive images or thoughts of the trauma).
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a technique that your therapist may use alongside therapy if they feel it is appropriate at the time. A therapist may be cautious about using mindfulness if you experience de-personalisation (e.g. a sense of feeling unreal, detached, and unable to feel emotion). This may make it worse if you experience a lot of dissociation. If this happens to be the case don't worry - your therapist will be able to work with you to find other strategies that would be helpful. Some modifications can be done with mindfulness, so you can still benefit from this method.
Mindfulness is a method of working with the mind to focus on the present moment and be able to stay in that moment. Practising mindfulness meditation also allows you to focus on the present moment and help change the relationship with your thoughts. Mindfulness works on the premise of acceptance and non-judgment. Whilst working with a therapist, you would look at how to apply these principles to your thinking. Mindfulness can also help with emotional regulation and can help you tolerate feelings of distress.
Emotional freedom technique (EFT): EFT is an intervention that can be used to help support you during therapy and can involve a series of tapping on acupressure points on the hand, face and body.
EFT can be utilised in combination with your talking therapy to help reinforce positive beliefs that you are developing, but also work on diminishing the effects of the negative thoughts as well. EFT can also be used to assist with the processing of trauma.
Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR): This is a psychological intervention method that can be utilised for helping process trauma. When you get to a good place to work with the trauma, EMDR can be used to help process the traumatic material.
EMDR is a technique where the therapist will use a light or their fingers and move them backwards and forwards to create bilateral eye movements. You will be asked to recall the traumatic event whilst the therapist is doing this. The theory is that it simulates REM, which is essential for processing memories.
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