Recognition: The Pathway To Recovery

There are hundreds of psychotherapy/counselling theories around that inform the thinking and interventions of therapists and counsellors. Just like in politics or religion, therapists can get pretty precious about their pet-theory and pretty vicious about ‘the competition’. I found that quite tiresome and became interested in the overarching principles that aid recovery. Hence my research project looked at how services shape recovery from sexual abuse.

Although the material is focused on sexual abuse, I believe that the general principles identified here are applicable in all therapeutic encounters.

Independent from any theory a therapist ascribes to, there are certain things that clients should be able to expect from their therapy/counselling. You can find some more information about what that is by downloading a pre-view of my PhD-research that presents clients views of what helps in recovery and what hinders. Download love_rights_and_solidarity.pdf This preview is free – if you use any of the material common practice is to reference it appropriately.

As a result of this research I was able to develop a theory of what is needed in the relationship between health professional and client for recovery to occur. The complete findings of this research will be available soon.

Do Sexual Abuse Survivors Need Therapy?

Faceb I have been asked the other day whether people need to go to a psychotherapist or counsellor to recover from sexual abuse. I think that is a really good question. Does a person need therapy to heal? I don't think it is necessary to go to a psychotherapist or counsellor. However, they need something because there is little evidence that people heal 'naturally' meaning by itself just through time passing.

What do survivors of sexual abuse need to recover? Human beings, like all mammals, depend on other's to help regulate emotional and physical states. Babies depend completely on others for state regulation. Growing up people can do it more and more for themselves – if they have good enough caregiver/parents. However, people are never completely able to regulate their states by themselves. That's where chat rooms, face book groups and other social networks on and off line are coming in. People need people who care, listen, understand, and are supportive.

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How To Build Trust When Trusting Feels Dangerous?

it shudn hurtMoving on from surviving sexual abuse to thriving in life can often be an up-hill battle of epic proportions. People, who have been sexually abused and did not get immediately support, care, and love from their parents, inevitably struggle with developing trust. This struggle is not a possibility, it is a fact. In most cases it is a direct result of the abuse. Being betrayed and abused by an adult who should care and protect erodes for most survivors the foundation for trust in other people. This is particularly bad when the perpetrator is a parent or close family member. Who can be trusted if the own family turns out to be not trustworthy?

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Sexual Abuse Through The Lens Of Recognition Theory

Child A In this post you’ll be discovering the basic principles of Recognition Theory. Why? I am glad you asked. Recognition Theory developed by Axel Honneth, Germany, describes the social processes through which a sense of identity is derived. Recognition Theory also underpins many of the posts published on this blog.

First I will define two important terms: “Recognition” is used here in the sense of giving value to something as in “…he is recognised with the Nobel prize”.   ”Disrespect”, the antonym of recognition, is used here in the sense of contempt or complete disregard of human rights.

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How To Build Self-Esteem

childSelf-esteem is a product of recognition through solidarity. Let me explain what that means. Within a community of peers people experience the expression of appreciation, acknowledge, valuing, and support as a sign of solidarity. When we are recognised in the above ways by people who share our values, concerns, and/or interests it means they ‘esteem’ us.

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Body Language

It is well know that only about 7% of communication is expressed in language. 93% of all communication is expressed in body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. That means the better you are able to ‘read’ the other person’s non-verbal expressions, the better you will be at connecting and communicating.

CB100620People usually signal to others their readiness to make a connection through expressive gestures. Expressive gestures of recognition that signal care, appreciation, encouragement, and support have long been identified as necessary for human infants’ psycho-social development, for affect regulation, for the development of the brain, and for identity formation.  They take such a significant role in human interactions because they signal to people in abbreviated form “I have your well-being in mind and I will do no harm”. Continue reading

How To Build Self-Respect

Self-Respect is a product of being granted rights like anybody else. Self-respect is understood here as the Justice & Rightsability to perceive oneself as a morally responsible individual whose actions are respected by others. Recognition through the granting of rights by legal systems is thus the second form of recognition that is vital for the development of one’s positive self-relations and identity. Without being granted rights self-respect can not develop. This is easy to see in examples of domestic violence for example, where one partner (usually the male) dominates the other (usually the female) through force and through wielding fear. Most victims of domestic violence will testify that they struggle to have a sense of self-respect.

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How To Build Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is one of these terms that are used by many people in many different ways without there being a clear agreement or understanding what exactly it means. In fact, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-worth are often used interchangeably.

Caring ParentsI am going to use the concept “Self-Confidence” in the philosophical sense of Axel Honneth’s Recognition Theory. He describes self-confidence as the ability to express one’s needs, desires, and anxieties without having to fear rejection or abandonment. To be able to do so, people need to have basic trust in the world as a just place in which their needs will be met. To say it in TA terms (Transactional Analysis), a person has self-confidence when s/he can say “I am OK and you are OK”.

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Positive Relations With Self – Positive Identity

People derive a sense of self and identity through interactions with others who give recognition and approval to a person’s abilities and accomplishments. How does that work? As children grow up, they are dependent on ‘significant others’ for forming of a positive sense of self.

j0149018Children need the experiences of a ‘human hothouse’. When they are cared for, supported, encouraged, respected, appreciated, and appropriately challenged, children develop the ability to identify, interpret, and realise their needs and desires. This will allow them to become autonomous and self-actualised grown-ups who have self-confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem. Continue reading