For many, the effects of suffering physical, emotional or sexual abuse can still be felt even after the relationship is over. The good news is that if these effects are dealt with in a healthy manner, over time they can disappear.
One way to navigate the normal thoughts and emotions that are left after an abusive relationship is to seek professional help. Just having someone outside your friends and family to listen can help you begin to feel better.
Finding the right counselor is important. While we never recommend couples counseling when there’s been abuse, after a break up the right counselor can make a big a difference in helping you heal. As with dating, it’s best to be honest about what you’re wanting out of the relationship, keep communication open and realize that the first one you visit might not be the right match for you.
The Massachusetts Chapter of National Association of Social Workers has put together a few guidelines to help in finding the counselor that’s best for you.
In The Beginning
Focus on what you’re wanting from counseling. Ask yourself:
- Do I want to seek counseling or is it someone else’s idea? If it’s someone else’s, it’s important to communicate that.
- What are my preferences when seeking out a counselor? Think about language, race, gender, age, sexual orientation.
- What are my goals for counseling? Write them down and talk them over with your counselor.
You may be asked to do an intake interview with someone. This person might not be your counselor, but they will be responsible for matching you with the right person. It’s important to let them know your needs up front so they can be equipped to match you with the best fit for your needs.
How’s It Going?
After you’ve gone to someone for a few sessions, think about how satisfied you are with the relationship before committing to more sessions. Some things to consider are, does this person:
- Listen to your concerns, value your opinion and support you?
- Ask you about your current situation and help you assess your safety?
- Ask relevant questions about sexual abuse, substance abuse, changes in sleeping and eating, major life events and other fears or concerns?
- Help you plan for safety, inform you of your right to protection by police and courts if needed, encourage you to use local resources for support and safety?
- Understand and express interest in your cultural background, social conditions and sexual orientation?
- Place responsibility for the violence on the abusive person?
- Recognize your strengths?
- Understand that you may have mixed feelings about the person hurting you?
- Seem non-judgmental and non-blaming?
- Have an appropriate emotional response to your story?
I Don’t Think It’s Working
If after some time, you don’t think the counseling is working and your needs aren’t being met, it’s important to communicate what’s not working. It could be there was a misunderstanding somewhere and this will bring the focus back to areas you’re concerned with. After having the discussion, the two of you may decide you’re not a good match and you can move on to someone who you feel is a better fit. Either way, the most important thing is ensuring your needs are met and allowing you to have the quality of life you deserve.
Seeking professional help after surviving abuse takes courage. Hopefully these guidelines will help you have a good experience finding someone to work through anything you might need.
For more information or resources in your area, call, chat or text us 24/7. We’re here to help.