As an expert in post-trauma functioning, particularly in survivors of sexual violence or mass trauma, clinical psychologist Laura Wilson, PhD, brings to light the importance of understanding risk factors associated with multiple forms of victimization and finding the right language to use in the process of treating survivors.
On this episode of the Mind Dive podcast, hosts Robert Boland, MD, and Kerry Horrell, PhD, are joined by Dr. Wilson to discuss the intricacies of treating sexual assault survivors.
“Tailor your intervention approach to the specific needs of the survivor,” said Dr. Wilson. “Each person is going to have a different lived experience and reactions from people in their lives. We must be flexible and pause and think about what this person would benefit from. This can be challenging because it’s a different skillset than more manualized treatments.”
From a clinician’s first reaction to a disclosure, to their cultivation of meaningful language and continued introspection into personal feelings around the topic, mental health therapists must approach treating a survivor of sexual assault with utmost care. As professionals navigate helping their patients through high profile societal conversations about sexual assault, coping mechanisms and more, Dr. Wilson emphasizes the most valuable skills to employ are patience and empathy.
Dr. Wilson is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of Psychological Science at the University of Mary Washington. She is also the director of Safe Zone, an education and advocacy program geared towards fostering inclusion of the LGBTQ+ population on campus.
For further education into this topic, see Dr. Wilson’s book with co-author Amie R. Newins, “A Clinician’s Guide to Disclosures of Sexual Assault (ABCT Clinical Practice Series).”