Understanding Attachment and Affect Regulation in the Experience of Childhood Sexual Abuse
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The experience of childhood sexual abuse poses a complex and enduring impact on survivors. The traumatic impact manifests in an array of psychological, emotional, and relational difficulties in life. This seminar discusses work with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, with a particular focus on understanding the development of the self. Theoretical concepts of attachment and affect regulation are highlighted.
Therapeutic work with adult survivors requires comprehension of the complex dynamics of the abuse and its impact on survivor’s overall functioning. The experience of childhood sexual abuse is characterized by betrayal and sets the framework of relationships being injurious. Survivors often struggle with trust and maintaining relationships with others. Patterns of coping and relating are attempts towards avoiding re-traumatization.
The traumatic experience of childhood sexual abuse influences survivors’ ability to experience and regulate affects. Painful and overwhelming affects necessitate use of protective mechanisms to be rid of these painful affects. Shame, a core affect arising from the experience of childhood sexual abuse, characterizes survivors’ identity and embodies the meanings attached to the traumatic experiences.
This seminar will also include discussions of treatment perspectives, specifically focusing on the concepts of reenactment and countertransference. Dynamics of the abuse and its traumatic impact inevitably manifest in the therapy relationship. The skillful use of countertransferential feelings is critical in establishing safety and essentially in developing trust in the therapy relationship.