The Empowerment Model: Developing a ‘Space for Self’
Throughout our 31 years of working with women who have experienced sexual violence, we have developed an integrative model of therapy as best practice in addressing the many impacts of trauma which survivors are living with. This model is embedded within our whole organisation, threaded throughout each specialist support service we provide, ultimately informing our ethos and practice around working with sexual violence.
First of all, our model incorporates a feminist viewpoint. This recognises that violence against women and girls is a global and social issue, where women disproportionately experience all manner of sexual violence, abuse, harassment and marginalisation, rooted in gender inequality and living in a world where men as a whole have access to more political, economic and social power.
As well as this understanding, we incorporate a humanistic approach to the relationship where we recognise that each person is an expert on their own emotional process. We create an environment where women are invited to develop trust in their own intuition and safety in a space where they can begin to explore their feelings and thoughts about their experiences of being raped and abused. Underpinning this is a psycho-dynamic exploration of family dynamics and attachment styles.
Embedded within our model of practice is a focus on the sensori-motor approach to psychotherapy, which enables survivors to fully engage and understand how the trauma they have experienced sits in their body. So where memories are scarce and words are few, ‘the body keeps the score’ (Rothschild, 2000), our model encourages a holistic approach for women to express their deepest pain and most shaming memories, and encourages them to put the accountability for the sexual violation back to the perpetrator.
It is through this shift in sense of responsibility, and recognition of women’s survival and resistance, that we have found survivors of sexual violence can engage with their recovery and in (re)building their sense of self and self worth.
Laura Joanknecht BSc (Hons) Psych, MBACP Acc
RASASC & RCSAS Counselling Coordinator