I have had the privilege of working with patients who have had sexual trauma early in their lives, either as children or young adults. As a result of this opportunity, I have come to believe that it can be important for some who have experienced such a terrible experience, either once or over time, to work with a therapist of the same gender as the abuser. While I do not, in any way, believe that anyone should seek the advice of a therapist with whom they would experience immediate discomfort, I am of the deep conviction that a healing relationship with a therapist of the same gender as the abuser could help to lift the limitations a patient might feel with regard to letting themselves be available for a meaningful relationship with another person.
Such a venture is a very tender process, involving time and an openness of expression that could help a patient be liberated of old fears while becoming wise about how to best take care of themselves in situations that, after working through the trauma, might otherwise make them too anxious to allow involvement. This is the process of moving from the position of victim to permission to thrive, perhaps on an even higher level than even the patient might have allowed themselves to consider.
As with any patient I see, my approach is collaborative. If a patient is too uncomfortable with the work we are doing, I change my approach to take their feelings into account. If the work just feels like it is "too much", we take a break. No one should feel like a prisoner to the therapeutic endeavor.
I invite people who have had such difficult experiences to consider what, to some of my colleagues, seems a radical approach. I would hope that the discovery would be that there is nothing to lose but some time.
Gil Bliss is a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) with a private psychotherapy practice in Towson, Maryland. Gil has worked with a wide variety of patients, including individuals, couples and families, along with grief work with children. His web site is www.gblisscounselor.com.