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THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS OF ADDRESSING SPIRITUAL ISSUES
IN PSYCHOTHERAPY WITH SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE

Nancy P. Swedlund
 

ABSTRACT

This study examined the spiritual and sexual abuse histories of ten women for whom addressing spiritual issues was a key component of their healing from sexual abuse. Subjects participated in audiotaped structured interviews based on an interview schedule developed by the researcher. Complete religious and abuse histories were gathered, and subjects= perceptions of how religious and spiritual issues have been related to their recovery from the abuse were explored.

Transcripts of the interviews were analyzed using grounded theory methodology to identify common and unique concepts and themes. Analysis identified four major categories of concepts: childhood background, effects of abuse in adulthood, treatment history, and adult relationship with religion and/or spirituality. Subcategories and major themes were identified within each major category.

One of the most prevalent themes regarding childhood background was a sense of lost innocence. Themes relating to effects of abuse included psychological, interpersonal, spiritual, and physical effects. Treatment themes included helpfulness of the therapist, areas addressed in therapy, and whether or not spiritual or religious issues were addressed in therapy. Themes under the category of adult religion and spirituality included coming to terms with childhood religion, current religious and spiritual practices, and use of religion or spirituality as a resource in recovery.


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