05.30.12 Truth & Wisdom

Amanda has a conversation with Arlene Drake, PhD

Amanda has a conversation with Arlene Drake, PhD

BY Arlene Drake

This week on the website, we are  featuring some stories that are more controversial in nature and are sure to evoke all kinds of emotions. They are powerful and honest accounts of sexual abuse from two women who have found some recovery and healing.

How would you describe your job?
“I have been a pioneer in the field of incest and childhood trauma for almost 30 years. I work with abused men and women to help them to become the people they were meant to be before they were robbed of their innocence. Incest has been called the murder of a child’s soul. I believe there is hope and people can heal.”

How many people have you successfully treated over your career?

“In my almost 30 years of practice, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of people. It takes a very dedicated and courageous person to make an active commitment to heal.”

What do you consider a “success” story? What does that look like?

“A success story in my eyes is someone who is no longer shackled by the trauma of their childhood. Someone who has healed that hurt child within and is now free to live and own their own life.”

What are the current stats on sexual abuse?

“Statistics show that approximately 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old. Over 80% of that will be by a family member or someone who is perceived as family. Sadly, authority figures such as clergy, teachers, and doctors will also make up part of that percentage.”

Does anyone ever fully recover from sexual abuse?

“I believe that people can recover from sexual abuse. The only exception is those with severe mental illness.”

Is incest harder to heal from, since there is an added layer of betrayal?

“Yes, incest can be harder to heal from because it deepens the layer of betrayal. When a child is sexually violated in their home, there is no safety, nowhere to go and no one to protect them. The home is the one place a child should be safe and protected. To me, that child is living in a war zone with no end in sight.”

What is the most effective type of therapy for someone wanting to heal and how long do people stay with you on average?

“On the average, people are with me from 2-4 years. Unlike most therapies, mine is designed to have a beginning, middle and an end. I graduate my clients when they have completed this process with me. At that point, they are no longer victims run by their past. They are free.”

Describe the group work you do and the tools you use in your treatment.

“It’s important to not only have a cognitive understanding of what happened to you, but also how it has contributed to self-defeating behaviors. We need to get below the surface into the unconscious and connect what we know in our minds with the feelings we have in our hearts and souls, which is usually different. Therein lies our greatest conflict. Right hand, left hand writing and homework is essential. The purpose for this is to connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

In order to make permanent and lasting changes, I have got to help my clients integrate what they know with how they truly feel in their hearts. I do individual therapy as well as groups. Groups help to free clients of the isolation and shame they have felt by keeping their secret. I create a safe space to heal and grow. My groups are structured, focused and goal oriented. I am a very interactive therapist. I am there to advocate for and guide my clients through all phases of recovery.”

What are some of the common long-term effects of experiencing sexual abuse?

“Some of the common long-term effects of sexual abuse include: self-loathing, all forms of addiction, self destructive and suicidal behavior. So many victims suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and most have trust issues with others as well as themselves. They also have difficulty with intimate relationships. These are only a few examples of the havoc that abuses wreak in our lives.”

I am greatly disturbed by the amount of stories reporting child abuse over the last few years. Are there more cases than ever of are it just that we are hearing about more?

“I’m not sure if there is more or less sexual abuse than there used to be, but because of the reporting laws and people’s awareness of this problem, more cases are being reported. The statistics we have are only based on reported cases. In my almost 3o years of practice, I have only had 2 clients whose cases were reported when they were young. My personal belief is that if all abuse were reported, it would be more like 50% of all children are abused.”

What is the first thing someone should do who suspects a child /friend is experiencing active abuse?

“If someone suspects active abuse, they should notify child protective services immediately. If they are afraid to use their name, they can report this anonymously.”

What are some common symptoms and warning signs to look for, specifically in children?

“Some common symptoms of abused children can be bed wetting, sudden change in appetite, extreme behavior (overly compliant or aggressiveness). Sexualized behavior as well as poor concentration and nightmares are all symptoms of sexual abuse.”

Can you suggest some helpful books /information resources to help people who have been abused and want to learn about healing themselves?

“The books that I suggest are Outgrowing the Pain by Eliana Gil, Abused Boys by Mick Hunter, The Truth Will Set You Free by Alice Miller and I Said No by Sue Rama and Kimberley King.”

Arlene Drake is a renowned psychotherapist living and working in Southern California. With over 25 years of experience, she is a pioneer in the field of childhood abuse and trauma recovery. In addition to a thriving private practice, Arlene supervises and trains other professionals in her innovative treatment methods. She has appeared on national talk shows and her opinions have been quoted in major media publications across the country. See more from Arlene on her website, Facebook and Twitter.


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