When one family member has experienced trauma, it is quite likely that the whole family will be affected. This can either be directly or as collateral damage associated with the sexual trauma of their family member.
While it is always appropriate to get the traumatized child or adult individual counseling and sex therapy to help them work through a host of complex emotions, it is also quite helpful to include the family in some of the counseling sessions with the trauma survivor.
Why Integrating the Family in the Therapy Is So Important
Sexual trauma can literally tear a family apart. This is especially true when one of the family members was involved in the abuse either actively or peripherally. Family members may take sides, causing life-long rifts in the family unit.
But, as stated by sex therapist Alejandra Chayet, bringing together the family for counseling sessions “creates an environment of trust in and outside of [the therapist’s] office amongst family members and leads to healthier relationships in the household.” That’s always a winning goal to pursue.
The Therapy Space Remains Sacrosanct
Family members will of course interact with one another in the home and plenty of other places besides the therapist’s office. But when the meet therapeutically to discuss sex therapy and trauma, it becomes sacred space where truth prevails and all points of view can be honored.
Because the therapist is there to guide the session, all participants can relax and be assured that there will be no attacks or piling-on of opinions. Each participating family member will have the chance to explain their thoughts and actions in a respectful manner that creates no further harm or trauma to the survivor or other family members.
Therapeutic Healing Promotes Trust
Too many families, in the face of sexual trauma, are ashamed. They may try to sweep the trauma under the rug, even to the point of denying the trauma ever happened to their family member.
This reaction re-traumatizes the survivor. Not only are they bereft of the family support they so sorely need at this juncture, the gaslighting they experience from their own loved ones can cause even more damage to fragile psyches.
Because the therapist’s office is their safe space, these issues can be thoroughly plumbed without assigning guilt to anyone but the actual abuser. The therapist can reinforce that a trauma survivor is never at fault for their abuser’s actions if that allegation has ever surfaced within the family unit.