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Bad Therapy for Abuse Victims and Survivors

Uploaded 8/24/2010, approx. 3 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Ideally, after a period of combined tutoring, talk therapy, and anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications, the survivor of abuse and the victim of abuse will self-mobilize, emerge from the experience more resilient and assertive, less gullible and self-deprecating.

The therapy for victims and survivors of abuse is not always a smooth ride.

Victims of abuse are settled with emotional baggage which often provokes, even in the most experienced therapies, reactions of helplessness, rage, fear and guilt.

Counter-transference is common. Therapists of both genders identify with the victim and resent her for making them feel impotent and inadequate in their role as social protectors.

Female therapists, for instance, say to themselves, it could have been me sitting there, and so to fend off anxiety and a sense of vulnerability, they involuntarily blame the spineless victim and her poor judgment for causing their abuse.

Some female therapists concentrate on the victim's childhood rather than her harrowing present or accuse her of overreacting.

Male therapists, on the other hand, may assume the mantle of the chivalrous rescuer, the knight in the shining armor, thus inadvertently upholding the victim's view of herself as immature, helpless, clinging, needy, need of protection, vulnerable, weak and ignorant.

The male therapist may be driven to prove to the victim that not all men are beasts and that they are a good specimen by himself. If his conscious or unconscious overtures are rejected, the therapist may identify with the abuser and re-victimize and pathologize his victim.

Many therapists tend to over-identify with the victim and rage the abuser at the police and at the system. They expect the victim to be equally aggressive, even as they broadcast to her how powerless, unjustly treated and discriminated against she is.

If she fails to externalize aggression and show assertiveness, these therapists feel betrayed, disappointed.

Most therapists react impatiently to the victim's perceived codependence, unclear messages and none of relationship with her tormentor.

Such rejection by the therapist may lead to a premature termination of the therapy, well before the victim has learned how to process anger and cope with her low self-esteem and learned helplessness.

Finally, there is the issue of personal security.

Some ex-lovers and ex-spouses are paranoid stalkers and therefore dangerous. The therapist may even be required to testify against the offender in a court of law.

Therapists are human, well at least some of them, in fear for their own safety and the security of their loved ones. This affects their ability to help the victim.

This is not to say that therapy invariably fails. On the contrary, most therapeutic alliances succeed to teach the victim of abuse to accept and transform the negative emotions into positive energy.

They succeed to completely draw and implement realistic plans of actions for the survivor of abuse. And they succeed to avoid the pitfalls of the past.

Good therapy is empowering, restores the victim's sense of control over her life. Yet it is crucial to find a match therapist that is compatible with a specific victim of survivor of abuse.

Thinking about finding a good therapist is a crucial step.

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