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AA Sponsor Requests Help for Sponsee With Flashbacks

29 Nov

Question: 

I am recovering in AA myself and sponsoring a woman with PTSD-like symptoms from early childhood sexual abuse. She is quite functional at her work and has an apparently organized life, with her finances in good order, and a neat, well-tended apartment. She has been sober the past 1½ years.

She suffers from invasive flashbacks of the abuse, which she then experiences just as if it were happening again. She will not use medication, (I support that), so I referred her to Health Journeys for your audios. 

In our rural area, the local community services board counselors are very pro-medication, so she gave up on those folks and won’t go back.

What types of therapy might help her? She needs guidance.

I understand that you may receive many messages like this, so any response at all will be very much appreciated. I have some of your recordings for stress and like them very much.

Penny M.

Answer:

Dear Penny,

I’m happy to answer your question. 

In rural areas where competent (or any) professional help is hard to come by, there’s always good old digital technology. 

Mary Sise, a social worker from Rochester, has created a DVD called Thought Field Therapy for Stress Management, where she demonstrates an acupoint tapping practice that reduces intense symptoms fairly quickly.

Peter Levine, the founder of a technique called Somatic Experiencing, created an audio set of meditations for childhood sexual abuse called Sexual Healing that I recommend as well.

She should also listen to the simple self-calming practices on our Stress Hardiness exercises, and practice them regularly.

After listening for a several weeks (one or two tracks, once or twice a day for three weeks) and once she feels she has the tools to self-soothe and calm herself firmly installed, she can start listening to the Healing Trauma imagery and affirmations, in whatever ‘dosage” she feels ready for - some survivors of early childhood sexual abuse gladly work with it immediately and right away feel the benefits; others need time and incremental dosing to work up to it, because it's emotionally intense – very healing, but very intense. If it’s too much for her, she can start out listening to the affirmations. With regular practice, these healing images can eventually supplant the distressing ones, and reduce the flashbacks.

The healing action of the guided imagery can be enhanced by listening to it during Healing Touch or Reiki sessions with a trained practitioner, if there is one around; or with self-administered, bilateral tapping while listening (she can tap alternating knees while seated or alternating sides of her abdomen or midriff if lying down). 

Good, old fashioned aerobic physical exercise can also help her discharge the trapped energy and biochemistry of trauma as well. There are more suggestions in my book, Invisible Heroes.

I hope this helps.

All best,

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Belleruth 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award