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It has impacted my life just by being able to read the stories of men and women who have experienced the pain of an abortion whether directly or indirectly and how many of them have received healing and forgiveness from the Lord.

 

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Basic Expectations That You Should Have of a Therapist or Group as You Seek Post-Abortion Healing

  1. Confidentiality. Your confidentiality and privacy should be strictly respected at all times, unless you are threatening harm to yourself or others. Also, no one should share the details of your story-even if no one would recognize that it is about you-with others without your explicit permission.

  2. No pressure to "tell your story." Because of wanting to reach out to those who still suffer, many people who have experienced post-abortion trauma do share their story with friends or in public. This is a personal decision, with many factors that you will need to consider. If you indicate an interest in raising awareness through sharing your story, a good support group will encourage you to discern what is best for you, and to take plenty of time in making this decision.

  3. Prompt response. If you e-mail an organization, you should expect a response within 48 hours. If you call a hotline or therapist and get voicemail, you should get detailed information about when you can speak to someone in person. If you leave a message, you should get a call back within 48 hours.

  4. The program should not include a political component. Because pro-life organizations such as the Catholic Church understood early on that men and women suffer after abortion, pro-life groups became active early on in supporting post-abortion research and healing. By contrast, some pro-choice activists can feel threatened by the idea that abortion can hurt a woman emotionally or spiritually, and react in damaging and defensive ways to your pain. Bottom line: You may find help from a source you did not expect, but you should probably steer clear of any therapist, clergyperson or healing program that in any way will use or minimize your pain or vulnerability or tells you that you have to be pro-life or pro-choice to receive help or to heal.

  5. The program and the individuals involved with it should be nonjudgmental, respectful, and knowledgeable.

  6. Avoid "quick fixes" and "spiritual bandaids" See http://www.nacronline.com/dox/library/daler/quick.shtml

 

Be Wise When Seeking Wisdom

Some words to the wise from Theresa Burke, PhD, founder of Rachel's Vineyard and co-author with David Reardon of "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion":

"Post-abortion healing is a specialty unto itself. The average psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor of any other academic stripe who does not understand post-abortion issues can often inflict more harm than good on the unsuspecting woman. Many may believe they have enough insight to help, but unless they have had additional training, they often don't. Certainly, if your thoughts and feelings become so overwhelming that you feel you can no longer cope, seek professional assistance immediately. But generally, I encourage you to take the time to find one of the growing number of professional therapists and experienced lay counselors who have received special training in post-abortion healing." (p. 247)

Here is a longer excerpt from Forbidden Grief that is another word to the wise as you think about seeking help with any post-abortion issues you may be experiencing:

"The interaction between therapists and women who have experienced abortion is obstructed by unspoken secrets, fears and political biases. It should be no surprise that because of their own psychological needs, many counselors simply don't want to delve into the subject of abortion. If they do, some prefer to quickly reassure clients that they did the best thing and thereby close off any further expressions of grief. This occurs because many counselors have neglected to identify their own fears and anxieties that might be aroused by such conversations.

Many therapists have been involved in an abortion themselves. Others have encouraged clients to abort or have given their therapeutic 'blessing' to the abortion option for clients considering abortion. This is often done out of ignorance of the research that shows that women with prior psychological problems fare poorly after abortion...While some therapists may simply be ignorant of these undisputed findings, others simply ignore or disbelieve them for their own psychological or political reasons.

Once a counselor has encouraged or approved of an abortion for Patient A, he may become 'invested' in defending abortion. If he subsequently allows Patient B to delve into her post-abortion grief and associated pathologies, then the counselor may be forced to question his advice to Patient A. He may be instinctively wary of witnessing an intense post-abortion reaction because it may provoke his own sense of guilt in having given Patient A bad advice.

Julianne described her experienced with her therapist this way:

"After my abortion, I could not stop crying. I went to see the therapist who had encouraged me to have the abortion. I cried the whole time there. She sat across from me with a blank look on her face. She said nothing. During this session she was removed and distant-emotionally cold and withdrawn. As I was leaving her office, she came up to me and said, 'I don't usually touch my patients, but you look like you need a hug.' She then proceeded to embrace my shoulders and offer a squeeze. I felt like I was being embraced by an evil presence. I shuddered at her touch. How dare she even come near me! A hug! I was sickened at the thought of such a trite expression-after having encouraged me to kill my own child! Never a word of support for my motherhood! Not an alternative plan, or a resource to help me. She knew I didn't want another abortion. She told me to have a ------ abortion because I would not be able to handle another baby.

Then she offered me a hug!

God, I miss my baby. That's who I wanted to hug...my baby who is gone, whom I will never hold or cuddle."
If the therapist has personally had an abortion, a client's confession of grief is quite likely to run into either a wall of denial or another quagmire of unsettled issues.

According to another of my clients, Hanna:

"I thought I had put my own experiences behind me. I was totally unprepared for the onset of emotions evoked by hearing one of my clients talk about her abortion. There are times when I feel as though I have opened a Pandora's box and my life will never be normal again. Memories I did not know existed have been surfacing at the most inopportune times. My sleeping hours are plagued by graphic nightmares. I vacillate between feeling in control and fully out of control. As a professional counselor, I struggle to find a bridge that will allow me to merge my professional expertise with my personal trauma. 'Physician, heal thyself!' I do know that the time to reconcile this is now and that it is no accident. I have arrived at this particular fork in the road.

Fortunately, Hanna recognized her own symptoms that screamed for attention and decided to seek help. She was willing to deal with the trauma that she had for many years successfully pushed away but had never truly worked through."

(The above excerpt is from pages 60-61 of "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion", by Theresa Burke, PhD with David Reardon, PhD.)

 

 
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