Healing Tools for RA Survivors
These Healing Tools have worked for me, but please remember what has worked for me, may not work for you. My hope is that they will help you on your healing journey. .
These tools are presented in my new book Your Strength to Heal: A Guide for Survivors of Ritual Abuse, Caregivers and Clinicians..
Your Strength to Heal is the first book of its kind to offer stories of inspiration and recovery to survivors of ritual abuse, as well as healing tools to aid in the survivors’ recovery process. It also contains the clinicians’ and counselors’ journeys in dealing with ritual abuse survivors and their therapeutic tools. Caregivers and partners give their story living with, and helping a survivor heal from the trauma of ritual abuse.
This book is based on the author’s nineteen years of healing from sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual and ritual abuse. The goal of this book is to provide hope, inspiration and encouragement to the survivor community and to explain the process of healing.
When searching for a therapist, it is wise to interview that therapist before making a commitment to therapy. One can ask questions such as:
Are you taking new clients?
How much do you charge and do you take sliding scale?
Are you an LMFT, LCSW or PhD?
How many years have you worked as a therapist?
Are you in supervision?
Have you worked on your own issues and for how long?
What are your spiritual beliefs and how do you view a Higher Power?
How many years have you had working with ritual abuse survivors?
What type of therapy do you use?
What other forms of self-help do you suggest for survivors?
What lengths are you willing to go to for your patients?
How do you deal with suicidal feelings or behavior?
Do you take emergency phone calls?
Do you have a back-up therapist?
It is important to ask each therapist the same questions. A survivor needs to feel safe and comfortable with this person and one can also have an initial session to check out how the therapist and client interact – a “try-out” period.
Secondly, a survivor needs to list the characteristics they must have in a therapist (e.g., good listener, supportive, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving), and remember that therapists are just people, they have strengths and weaknesses and a “perfect therapist” does not exist. A survivor must also realize she/he has options in choosing a therapist and they are in charge and not powerless.
Thirdly, a therapist who has experience dealing with ritual abuse, dissociation, programming and mind control, or is open and willing to learn about these conditions will help a survivor feel they are in good hands.
After interviewing various therapists, either by phone or in person, it is then important to trust a survivor’s own intuition, and allow the inner child and parts to have a say. Getting feedback from a friend who is objective, can offer advice and has no agenda can help in the final decision-making process.
Women’s centers and rape crisis centers are good avenues for survivors to find therapists, or for referrals to therapists, as these centers are often more connected with sexual abuse recovery or trauma. In choosing a good therapist, one can also ask survivor friends for referrals.
It is vitally important that a therapist should have good boundaries, never act inappropriately nor have sex with a client, or ask one on a date. It is very important that the therapist not blame a client for what happened. A therapist should never use physical force, threaten with physical force or use shame, humiliation or scare tactics toward a client.
If you decide to report a therapist's unethical and illegal behavior, there are four different ways to do so. Each option has both strong and weak points. You may choose any one or all of these options:
Administrative Action – file a complaint with the therapist's licensing board.
Professional Association Action – file a complaint with the professional association's ethics committee.
Civil Action – file a civil complaint.
Criminal Action – file a complaint with local law enforcement.
(Booklet titled Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex by the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs).
Reparenting and Learning to Love One’s Inner Child/Parts
Since survivors were never shown love growing up in an abusive home, it is important to establish a loving healthy relationship with one's inner child/parts. Survivors treat themselves how they were treated in their family of origin. They have no idea what unconditional family love is and nothing to compare it to.
Viewing good parenting tapes such as John Bradshaw’s family tapes can help with this, as well as reading good children’s literature such as the Ramona series. This gives a better perspective of a normal family upbringing. .
A survivor can learn to have fun in the playground, in the sand pit or on the swings which helps the little child/parts know they’re cared for and loved. Listening and supporting them establishes trust and lets them know they are not alone anymore and are loved.
It is helpful to learn to recognize triggers and separate the current situation from the past abuse, and not transfer the feelings onto the situation or person. Speaking to one's inner child/parts about the forthcoming event and reassuring them they are not alone, that this is not an abusive situation and telling them they are loved, will certainly help prepare them for the situation in advance.
Taking Care of Oneself
Taking care of oneself means exercising, eating healthy foods, eliminating addictions, getting a good night’s sleep, staying present in one’s body and letting go of abuse and abusive people. This also includes learning to set healthy boundaries, saying no when needed, and not feeling responsible for another person’s feelings or actions. This is a process that begins with self-love.
Substituting Self-Harm with Self-Care
For survivors in particular, self-injury can be a coping mechanism, a way to relieve stress and anxiety and a way of communicating when words are not available. The first step in eradicating self-harm is acknowledging the denial, becoming conscious of the self-harm and then removing the triggers.
The next step is to substitute self-harm with self-care. Once a survivor understands how and when this behavior occurs, it can then be talked about, drawn, sung or journalled, and then the pressure to act physically may well diminish.
Learning to Trust Oneself
Because survivors are taught from an early age not to trust themselves or others, learning to be present, listen to their bodies and trust themselves are crucial tools for healing. It then follows that by trusting oneself and one’s judgment, the survivor can learn to trust others.
Recovery Books and Survivor Stories
Reading recovery books and survivor stories helps a survivor feel less alone, and hopeful that a productive, meaningful life is indeed possible. Survivor stories can also give inspiration and provide useful healing tools.
Learning to be present in one’s body and in nature can be healing and nurturing whether it is seeing a beautiful lake, watching a sunset, hiking, swimming or feeding the birds. One can come away from a beautiful scene with gratitude that one is not alone and has survived such horrendous abuse.
Writing to vent anger can release repressed feelings and can also help a person to better understand what they are feeling at that given moment. Writing letters to the abusers, but not always sending them can help the survivor get in touch with the rage and why this happened to them. Another way of releasing anger is writing all the incidents of the abuse that happened, dealing with those feelings, and then, with witnesses, burn the writings outdoors.
Movement and Dance
Movement and dance can help a survivor learn to be more present in the body, help to get repressed feelings to the surface and help the survivor become less self-conscious and learn to love one’s body.
Collages and Artwork
Using collages and artwork can help to express and vent innermost feelings and allow the survivor to be present in the body without hurting oneself.
Workshops and Conferences
Attending survivors’ conferences and workshops can help with feelings of isolation and aloneness, provide support and encouragement from other survivors and provide an opportunity to meet and talk with survivors.
Acting out means using destructive behavior to oneself. A survivor may not always be conscious of the act, may be in a trance and not remember. To prevent acting out, it is best to try and stay in one’s body, and enlist help from all dissociative parts so that the situation does not recur.
Awareness of Cult Holidays
Awareness of cult holidays and knowing cult holidays in advance can prepare a survivor for feelings and triggers that may surface. Planning events ahead of time on cult holidays, as well as talking to oneself and/or dissociative parts in advance about cult holidays can also help. It is crucial to be gentle with oneself knowing there will be an end to the anniversary reaction and this too shall pass.
Dealing with Chaos
Having structured time throughout the day or planning a week ahead can help deal with disorganization, chaos and dissociation, for instance having time to eat, bathe, sleep, do bills, house-cleaning, exercise and rest.
Working with Alters/Parts of Oneself
For a survivor with alters/parts, talking with all parts, accepting, respecting, reassuring and educating them will definitely help them feel empowered to open up to experiences and viewpoints. This can help the parts learn to love and feel safe with each other. .
Dealing with Cult Programming
Dealing with programming, particularly suicidal thoughts (e.g., “we will kill you if you talk”) is how the cult implanted a “don’t talk program.” In order to counteract the programming, a survivor can label it as soon one is aware of it which takes the power away. Furthermore, refusing to act on the programming then weakens the negative messages by not reinforcing it.
Copyright 2003, 2007 by Survivorship and Kim Kubal. All rights reserved.