Abuse is the intentional harm caused to another person. Abuse is an attempt to control the behaviour of another person. Abusers intimidate, use fear, threaten and can use violence and assault in order to achieve their desired outcome of control. Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial.

Emotional or psychological abuse occurs when one person exposes another to behavior that leaves lasting psychological repercussions. This may or may not be coupled with physical abuse, and can occur anytime there is a power imbalance – at home, in the workplace, at school, etc. Emotional abuse is manipulative and can cause the sufferer to believe that he or she is worthless.

Bullying has unfortunately become an all too common occurrence in schools everywhere, and can have a lasting impact for the victim. Whether you or someone you love are currently being bullied, or have been bullied in the past with lasting psychological effects, a trained therapist can help you explore options to ease the burden.

Sexual abuse and assault: unwanted sexual contact can leave both physical and emotional scars. This includes any sexual act in which one person has not consented or is being coerced through power, age or responsibility imbalance, or with the use of drugs or alcohol. Acts like having sexually explicit pictures of you taken without consent, inappropriate touching, or having someone expose their private parts or even send you unwanted pictures are all considered sexual abuse and assault. Sexual abuse and assault can have a lasting impact on one’s mental health.

Physical (family) violence encompasses a wide variety of abusive behaviors including spousal abuse, child abuse, abuse between siblings, or extended family members living in the home. Family violence can include psychological/emotional, economic, verbal, or sexual abuse and physical violence. Often situations of family violence are complex and involve many different factors and relationships.

When is it time to get help?

If you experience the following symptoms as a result of being in a relationship, you are most likely in an abusive situation and should seek help immediately:

Emotional symptoms

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Low self-worth
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Anxiety or a constant feeling of fear
  • Fear of the abuser
  • Fear of attending school, work or other events where the bully/abuser may be present
  • Inability to break free from the abuser
  • Feelings of shame
  • Pulling away from friends and family
  • Being withdrawn from everyday life
  • Misplaced aggression towards other people or family pets
  • Openly or secretly planning revenge
  • Attempting to overhaul one’s looks or life to blend in
  • Avoiding situations or changing your job, school or habits to avoid the bully/abuser
  • Trust issues
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Shock and confusion

Physical symptoms

  • Night terrors
  • Physical injuries
  • Problems sleeping
  • Issues with sexual identity or functioning
  • Trauma response (PTSD)
  • Sleeplessness
  • Sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy
  • Flashbacks or nightmares of the abuse
  • Memory issues
  • Aches and pains
  • Tense muscles

Abuse treatment methods

There are several effective treatment methods for dealing with the trauma caused by abuse. Your therapist will discuss with you, the best options for your individual circumstance. Some treatment methods that are typically successful in treating the effects of abuse include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how your thoughts, emotions and beliefs influence your behaviour and how you perceive yourself, others and the world. CBT has been shown to be effective in dealing with anxiety because it helps you to change those negative thoughts, feelings, emotions and projections on a subject matter or circumstance and help you to learn more effective ways of dealing with your anxiety. This approach uses sound techniques to slow down, halt and eliminate your own learned reactions. Ultimately, CBT deals with those circumstances and events that you’re aware of, rather than dealing with circumstances and events relating to your unconscious. Through a sound therapeutic process, you’ll learn to respond differently to issues and circumstances, and you’ll learn healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Person Centered Therapy approaches tend to create a level of a permissive and noninterventionist climate suggesting that the client knows best, rather than the counselor. Typically nondirective, counselors avoid sharing a lot of personal information about themselves with clients and tend to focus more on reflecting and clarifying the verbal and nonverbal communications that clients express to them. Generally, this humanistic approach tends to believe that people are essentially trustworthy and have a vast potential for understanding themselves while also being able to ultimately resolve their own problems when guided properly.
  • Reality Therapy: Reality therapy generally believes that individuals choose their behaviour and as a result, are responsible for not only what they are doing, but also how they think and feel. The ultimate goal of reality therapy is to provide the necessary support of conditions to help clients develop the psychological strength to evaluate their own behaviour and acquire more effective behaviour on the under the umbrella of a warm, accepting counselling environment. One of the key important beliefs is that our behaviour is not caused by the environmental factors, but rather by our internal forces and choice, ultimately leading to the key focus of accountability within ourselves.
  • Narrative Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses narratives to help people separate themselves from their problems. Initially developed during the 1970s and 1980s, narrative therapy believes that the person isn’t the problem; the problem is the problem. Clients are encouraged to analyze and find meaning in important life events. Through questioning and collaboration, the therapist acts as an “investigative reporter” who helps the client to examine and evaluate the problem. By separating the problem from the person, distance is created, which makes it easier to investigate and assess the impacts the problem has had on a client’s life. It’s particularly helpful in treating trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self esteem issues.

What will I get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, getting the right therapy may help you to leave that relationship. If you are in an abusive situation and you are afraid for your life or your personal safety, call 911.

If you are a survivor of abuse, Insight can help you to deal with the trauma and aftermath so that you can go on to experience healthier relationships and better quality of life overall.

Note: Insight can also provide therapy for abusers.