How to Find a Therapist for Sexual Violence Survivors

Hi, everyone. Alisa Zipursky here from and today, we’re talking about my five strategies for finding the right therapist.

Hi, everyone. Alisa Zipursky here from and today, we’re talking about my five strategies
for finding the right therapist for you to help you in healing from sexual trauma. This is a topic that means a lot to
me because I have been in and out of therapists’ and psychiatrists’
offices since I was 10 years old, looking for support to heal from
my childhood sexual abuse. So I’m offering you survivor-to-survivor
support, some tips that I’ve learned along the way that has helped
me to find what I really needed. Two important caveats while we get started
is first, that therapy is not nearly as accessible as it needs
to be in this country. There are huge financial, cultural,
logistical barriers to accessing therapy and unfortunately, it is a privilege
right now in this country, opposed to as it should
be, which is a right. The second caveat is that
talk therapy isn’t for everyone and that’s totally cool. Talk therapy has been really about
valuable and helpful for me in my life. But other people find healing in other
forms of therapy, whether it’s EDMR or hydrotherapy, and I support you in
finding whatever is your therapeutic experience that help support you
in healing from sexual trauma. My first strategy is to find an
accountability buddy and ask them for help to support you on your healing journey. When I had to find a new therapist two
years ago, because my old one retired, I asked a friend for help, and to
help me make the phone calls to my insurance company, to new therapist,
sometimes she would even make the phone calls for me while I sat next to her. And I had her check in with me every
week to see how my progress was going and to help me hold myself accountable to
make sure that I follow through in finding the right person, because it can be
really difficult and isolating to go through this process alone. And everybody could use a little help. And frankly, our friends love when
we tell them exactly what we need in terms of support. My second strategy is to think of finding
the right therapist like blind dating, which may make it seem even less
appealing, but it’s helpful to have the expectation that the first person you
meet might not be the right therapist for you and that it’s a completely
reasonable to shop around until you find the right one that is. I interviewed five therapists before
finding the one that I’ve been working with for the past two years. Now, that can require a lot of
financial and logistical support, but if you can swing it,
it really is so helpful. Because there isn’t that pressure to be
like, oh, if this person doesn’t feel safe and good to me, then there’s no one else. And the more people you meet, you
can really compare and contrast them, and then it can become abundantly clear
to you who is the person that you feel like you could have a healthy
therapeutic relationship with. And don’t feel guilty at all about
doing this in terms of the feelings of the therapist, they’re totally
accustomed to this and they are trained not to take any of this personally. So let go of any guilt that you might feel
that you’re just like only seeing them once and then not making a
second appointment with them. That is totally normal and totally cool. My third strategy is to
come ready with questions. Now, some therapists will let you
ask questions to them over the phone before you even meet them,
which is great because it saves you time and energy. Some therapists won’t talk to you over the
phone and insist on talking in person and that’s totally normal as well. Some of the questions I like to ask is,
are you a trauma-informed therapist? What does it mean for you
to be trauma-informed? Have you worked with other childhood
sexual abuse survivors like myself? Do you think it’s important for me to talk
about my past and try to remember things about my past, or are we going to
focus more on the present right now? Which can be really revealing because
that can be a really different strategy for different therapists. And for me, I know what helps me most
is therapy that focuses on the present and not on my past. Whatever those questions are for
you that are really important to you, feel totally empowered to ask them. Another one I love to ask is whether
or not you would give me advice, because some therapists
are like, “No, I would never.” They’d be like, “No, I’d ask
you why you’re asking me that.” And some therapists are like,
“Yeah, sure, I’ll give you advice.” And that can be a question that
gives you a lot of information about them really quickly. Also pay attention to whether
or not they’re allowing you to interview you anyway. There was one therapist that I had that
would not let me get a single question in. And when I tried, she kind of laughed at
me and belittled my questioning as though it wasn’t what we were doing here. And while it was a really uncomfortable
experience, I realized that it was really helpful because it showed me like
instantly, that this wasn’t somebody that I was going to have an equal therapeutic
and healing relationship with. And it gave me the information I
needed to be like, “Okay, next.” My fourth strategy is to look at
your local rape crisis centers. It’s amazing that there are
thousands of rape crisis centers all across the country, in so many
different communities and they are excellent resources, not just
for when somebody is in crisis in that moment, but also in
terms of long-term healing. So I have an amazing rape
crisis center that’s local to me, which is the DC Rape Crisis Center. And they offer lots of therapeutic
services for people who are members of the community, whether or not
they’ve ever accessed the support from the center before. And so these are people who are like super
trained, too super experienced in working with sexual trauma survivors. So I totally recommend reaching out to
your rape crisis center, seeing if they do offer therapeutic services that you might
have access to, especially because those are often on a sliding scale and much more
affordable than private therapists are. And if they don’t have people,
ask them for recommendations, because they’re definitely very likely
going to know who in the community is a trusted person who a lot of survivors
go to and have had helpful and valuable therapeutic relationships with. My fifth and final strategy is to remember
to listen to your gut over your mind. So often, as survivors,
we’ve trained ourselves to not get to listen to those gut feelings that
tell us when we’re safe or not. Because we were going through
some really terrible stuff. But now in our healing, we’re
allowed to call the shots and we’re allowed to say like,
“Listen, this is when I feel safe, this is when I don’t.” And to let that actually be our guide
in decision-making processes. So even if a therapist looks great
on paper, if, for whatever reason, you really don’t feel safe and comfortable
with them, I ask you to give yourself permission to listen to those voices. Because I think that, in and
of itself, can be really healing. Remember that I am here with you
every step of the way on this journey, and if it feels really hard finding the
right therapist, just know that you’re not doing anything wrong. It is just, unfortunately in
our country, really difficult to find the right therapeutic
relationship for ourselves. But know that you’re not alone in feeling
that way and you deserve every support that you want in your healing dream. You’re worth it. In your healing dream, you’re worth it. So please like and subscribe, and
come visit me on to sign up for my Friday emails to learn
more, and I’ll see you all next Thursday. Bye.

One thought on “How to Find a Therapist for Sexual Violence Survivors”

  1. Thank you for watching my 5 strategies for sexual violence survivors finding the right therapist to help you on your healing journey! Which of these strategies is most helpful to you?

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