Survivor-therapists and sexual-assailant-clients: A unified approach to sexual communication skills building and assault prevention

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Journal of Psychotherapy Integration


Sexual assault is a serious problem that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans per year (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2017). Though no research has yet documented the representation of sexual assault survivors who work as mental health professionals, it can be assumed that the numbers are similar to those in the general public-1 in 3 women are survivors (Smith et al., 2017). This article will discuss the transformation of one therapist, a survivor, working with a young man, who in the course of treatment, was accused of rape. The hope is that this article will reach other survivors working as mental health professionals, and supervisors supporting those therapists, to illuminate what to do when personal trauma interacts with tertiary trauma in the context of a nonjudgmental therapeutic relationship. This article has been written from the perspective of the therapist (and doctoral trainee), with input from the supervisor who consulted on the case. It is our hope that others will be able to learn from this experience, as it is likely to be reoccurring.


M. Byrd is a faculty member in EMU's Department of Psychology.

*H. C. Hennrick is an EMU student.

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