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Obtaining counseling after sexual assault can help you cope with the effects of the assault.  Being sexually assaulted is an extremely traumatic event by anyone’s standards, especially when compared to the increased distress and psychopathology that results from other types of trauma. Longitudinal studies done on sexual assault victims show that for many, the level of distress does decrease during the first few months after the assault, but a large percentage of these victims go on to develop chronic symptoms of distress, which reduces their ability to function and results in a poorer quality of life. Receiving counseling after sexual assault can certainly be helpful if done shortly after the assault, only 19% to 39% of victims receive any type of treatment. Due to these low treatment rates, and since April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, we are highlighting the value of counseling for victims of sexual assault.

In a recent study, 442 women who agreed to participate. The majority (71%) of these women were employed and the average age of the participants was 26 years old. As a whole they were mostly (90%) were single, Caucasian (62%) or African American (38%), and were covered by private health insurance (41%), Medicare or Medicaid (22.9%), or had no health insurance (36.5%).

Of these women who had been sexually assaulted about one-third had received counseling within 6 months of being assaulted. This figure is lower than what has been seen in studies done on sexual assault victim in the population at large, which is 54%. Those who did receive counseling after sexual assault were far more likely to have used mental health services in the past, the study showed. These findings were consistent with other studied done on sexual assault victims, which showed that women who had never had any mental health treatment or intervention were less likely to seek or get counseling after sexual assault. Those with a history of mental health treatment are most likely more comfortable going back to their previous mental health provider simply because they already have a trusting relationship with them and more likely have the means needed to obtain treatment.

The results of this study suggest that spending 1 day experiencing depressive symptoms, rather than experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, was more predictive of who would seek counseling after sexual assault. In fact, this particular phenomenon was seen despite having higher levels of PTSD symptoms a month after the sexual assault. It’s possible that victims may think that their symptoms of PTSD are helpful when they occur shortly after they’ve been assaulted as it helps them perceive dangerous cues and avoid those people or situations and because they become overly vigilant to perceived threats, making them think they are developing better coping strategies.

However, this avoidance behavior probably keeps them from using mental health counseling after sexual assault. Their depressed mood right after, which of course is depression, may on the other hand be perceived as a problem that requires treatment. Because depression is linked to more widespread health issues that may spur them on to feel they need help and get them to seek counseling after a sexual assault.

Individuals who met the criteria for abusing alcohol and who had received mental health treatment prior to being assaulted were 4 times as likely to seek and get counseling after sexual assault. In all likelihood this shows that people who started drinking more after being assaulted and had alcohol abuse problems in the past recognized this increase in drinking and realized it was destructive and sought treatment. This shows that an emphasis needs to be put on engaging people who have problematic drinking with no history of prior treatment, so that they receive the care they need when they’re assessed. Furthermore, it may be a good idea to treat subsequent posttraumatic distress at the same time the patient is being treated for alcohol abuse.

With so many victims having little or no access to treatment or counseling after sexual assault it is very concerning since a substantial percentage of sexual assault victims end up with long-standing chronic difficulties in life, which include substance abuse and/or PTSD. Interventions that begin with the first contact with a victim are likely the most helpful. Stepped-care approaches beginning with the least invasive and effective forms of treatment that gradually increase in intensity have been shown to be of significant promise in connecting victims to psychological counseling after sexual assault.

Because our treatment for depression, PTSD and anxiety programs rely on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.  Unfortunately, in Tennessee, about 3.7% of all adults will have serious thoughts of suicide.  Furthermore, less half of all individuals with any mental illness in Tennessee will receive mental health treatment.

Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting. It is also important to keep in mind that women and men often experience PTSD and depression differently and therefore the presence of PTSD and depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of PTSD, anxiety or depression, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  People who have completed our program have provide very high consumer satisfaction scores and reviewsCall us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.