Childhood abuse, whether it is physical, emotional or sexual (or a combination of these) can have long term effects on mental health and wellbeing. Many people who experience childhood abuse live successful lives. Sometimes though people feel the need for extra emotional support through counselling.
When might someone who has survived childhood abuse seek counselling?
- Sometimes this is because strategies for coping with the emotional fallout of abuse (e.g. alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, self-harm, isolation) are no longer working or are causing problems in themselves.
- There is good research evidence that links childhood abuse with mental health problems (e.g. suicide attempts, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, personality disorders, anxiety, depression) and these can lead people to seek help.
- Children who are abused don’t learn how to get their needs met in healthy ways, or how to put boundaries in place, and this can lead to difficulties in present relationships.
- Anger and aggression issues are common for survivors of abuse and this can be internally or externally expressed.
- Sometimes when survivors go on to have their own children, past feelings may be re-stimulated as the person references back to their own childhood experience to try and work out how to meet their child’s needs.
- It can be hard for survivors when their abuser dies. Grief can be complicated and in addition people often experience grief for the childhood they should have had but didn’t (this grief can be felt at other times, sometimes when a survivor sees their own child having what they didn’t have).
- It can also be hard for survivors to feel powerful enough to define their own identity, rather than the abuse defining them.
It’s important to realise that past abuse doesn’t have to be relived in counselling. It’s more important for the person themselves to evaluate what the effects are for them and how they are playing out in the present. Counselling is also about recognising how resourceful survivors are, about recognising the person, not just the abuse.