Survivors see all sorts of practitioners for support. Some work privately and others work in agencies e.g. sexual assault services or schemes e.g. victims services. These practitioners use different methods and approaches. Deciding who to see can be challenging. The section choosing a ‘counsellor’ is intended to guide that process.
Studies show that the type of therapy or counselling that is used by a practitioner, is not the main element that helps us heal. It also doesn’t matter if it is provided by a social worker, mental health nurse, psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor, psychotherapist or other sort of practitioner. It is of course important that the practitioner is experienced and trained in working with adult survivors of child abuse and trauma. That’s because of the particular needs survivors of what is called ‘complex’ trauma have.
The quality of the relationship the practitioner establishes with you, and you establish with them is crucial. This is true for anyone who sees a counsellor or therapist. It is particularly important for survivors. As survivors have been harmed in relationships, healing also occurs in relationships. Building a relationship of rapport and trust is critical.
At times any therapeutic or counselling process can be uncomfortable. That’s because of the issues being explored. This is particularly so when they relate to traumatic experiences in childhood.
If you are seeing someone professionally, over time, it is however important that you feel safe and comfortable with them. That you build a relationship of trust and respect which enables you to work with them. That they empower you to identify and build on your strengths, and arm you with resources to better negotiate day-to-day life.
Psychotherapy refers to a set of interpersonal healing approaches that support people to understand themselves better and make changes in their lives. Psychotherapy is practiced by different practitioners. A limited number of psychotherapy sessions are funded through Medicare via referral from your GP and through some private health funds, or state-based schemes, depending on where you live.
Counselling is a broader term than "psychotherapy". It provides guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems. There are many different counselling approaches. They often draw on psychological theory and techniques. Many counsellors have related qualifications and accreditations.
Counselling and psychotherapy are better regulated than previously. Before choosing your counsellor or therapist it’s a good idea to check their qualifications, expertise, approach, experience and registration status (with a recognised professional body). Many people find a range of practices helpful which include mindfulness, yoga, EMDR, EFT, neurofeedback, and art and music therapy, and can be provided as part of a therapeutic process or in support of it. They are provided by a range of different practitioners. Different people find different practices and approaches helpful.
Attending a group can also be helpful. This can be alongside one-on-one counselling or stand alone. Some women’s health services, community health services and sexual assault services run groups for survivors. Some of these are therapeutic groups, facilitated by health professionals. Others are peer support groups, involving other survivors. It is important that they offer a safe space, which can support healing.
Some private hospitals also provide outpatient groups in skills development. Groups can help people who are feeling socially isolated feel better connected and more supported.
Blue Knot Foundation has a Referral Database of health practitioners and agencies with experience in supporting adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. Our helpline counsellors can provide you with the names and contact details of practitioners from this database in response to your requests. To find the name and contact details of a practitioner or agency for you to access call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 between 9-5 Mon-Sun AEST. (Blue Knot Foundation provides this information as a service only and cannot guarantee its suitability for any service user’s particular needs).