• Trauma Therapy for Sexual Assault

    Emilia Pacholec

    Trauma Therapy for Sexual Assault

    Finding the right therapist can be difficult. Finding the right therapist who offers the right type of therapy for you can be even more difficult.

    When looking for therapy, nothing is more important than finding a therapist who specializes in the problem that you are experiencing and whose approach resonates with you. This couldn’t be truer if you’re experiencing difficulties related to trauma, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That’s because different traumas impact people differently and a skilled therapist will know what to look for.

    At New Moon Psychotherapy we work extensively with trauma stemming from sexual violence. This means that we know the ins and outs of its impact.

    For example, we know that survivors of sexual assault (rape, childhood sexual abuse, uninvited touch, date rape, etc.) are more likely than any other type of trauma survivor to fear that they will not be believed. This can leave them questioning if the event happened, if it was really an assault, and how they created such a misunderstanding (fyi: it was an assault, they didn’t create a misunderstanding, and this is exactly the way that PTSD impacts thoughts).

    Survivors might also question their own judgment and ability to make decisions. This ties into the belief that they did something to cause the event or didn’t do something to stop it (fyi: again, false, that’s PTSD impacting thoughts).

    Survivors of sexual trauma experience shame and guilt. These emotions will impact one’s relationships, ability to trust, sense of power and control, intimacy, and self-esteem.

    The good news is that PTSD is essentially the only mental health condition that has a very clear cause. Knowing how and why it develops makes it a highly treatable condition. There are evidence-based treatments available to reduce symptoms of PTSD quickly and effectively.

    A therapy that is a particularly effective treatment of PTSD from sexual violence, is Cognitive Processing Therapy, or CPT. This is one of the most extensively researched PTSD therapies and was created specifically for survivors of rape. Over 20 years of research shows that it works, and we love it because it works quickly!



    Usually in about 12-15 weekly sessions people start to reconnect and connect with others. To smile again. They start living the lives they didn’t think they’d live again.

    CPT focuses on how past traumatic event(s) impact our thinking. This is important because our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are connected. If our thinking is changed, our feelings and behaviour will change also.

    CPT allows us to identify the thoughts that developed from the trauma. We call these thoughts “stuck points” because they keep us stuck in recovery from the traumatic event.

    We then focus on evaluating those thoughts, challenging them, and replacing them with more accurate and balanced beliefs. Different skills are taught and intended to be practiced daily.

    Here are some reasons why we love CPT

    1)     You do not have to talk about what happened. CPT focuses on why it happened and how it has impacted you. Some people find it helpful to talk about what happened and others don’t. CPT lets you decide.

    2)     CPT is results based. Before each appointment you will complete a brief questionnaire assessing PTSD to ensure this is the right treatment for you. If we’re not seeing results, we’ll troubleshoot what is getting in the way and change directions if necessary. This means that we won’t keep doing something that isn’t working for you.

    3)     The course of CPT treatment is generally 12-15 sessions – I said sessions, not weeks. For optimal results, the recommendation is to not go more than one week between sessions and research supports the use of CPT more frequently. This means that you can safely (some research suggests with added benefit) do CPT more frequently throughout the week. You can listen to a podcast of a woman who outlined her two-week course of CPT treatment here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/682/ten-sessions

    4)     It is time limited. You. Do. Not. Have. To. Be. In. therapy. For. Years. To. Recover. From. Trauma.

    There’s this belief that trauma breaks you and leaves you permanently damaged. It may feel this way, and I want to challenge that you aren’t permanently damaged – you just haven’t healed yet.

    I once heard someone refer to trauma as a wound and therapy as the process of cleaning out the wound.

    It burns, it stings, and you want to stop but by cleaning it out you’re allowing it to heal properly – without infection or future complications.

    Once clean, healing begins. Slowly the pain begins to lessen and a scar forms.

    Eventually, you think of the wound less. Maybe only when you glimpse at the scar or when something reminds you of it.

    It no longer demands as much of your attention and the emotions aren’t as intense.

    I see CPT as the ultimate trauma wound cleaner. It gets in and clears out all the thoughts that are keeping you from healing.

    If you are interested in learning more, please reach out! We’re happy to answer any questions that you have.

    You can call or text 647-203-3023 to set up a free 15-minute consultation with a CPT trained therapist. That appointment will help you learn if you and the therapist are a fit and we can schedule the initial assessment. At the assessment you and the therapist will discuss how the trauma is impacting your life and what therapy would be most helpful to you.

    For more information about CPT, check out https://newmoonpsychotherapy.ca/cognitive-processing-therapy/