Speaker- Miss Christian Sanderson

The speaker was Christiane Sanderson, an experienced psychologist, lecturer and trainer in counselling and trauma. With 35 years of experience working in the field of child sexual abuse, sexual violence and complex trauma. She has also written and published numerous books on child sexual abuse, domestic abuse, complex trauma and shame.

Willingness | 2024 Workshop on “Working with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse”
Exploring the Nature and the Dynamics of Child Sexual Abuse

During the workshop, the presenter highlighted various forms of child sexual abuse, including abuse between siblings, by a parent, or within the school environment. Simultaneously, the speaker emphasized discussing the main dynamics of abuse: control, power, shame, and the deliberate deception by the abuser. Therapists must grasp these dynamics fully for effective intervention. So as not to reproduce the same patterns in the therapeutic relationship.

Child Sexual Abuse and Complex Trauma

The workshop also covered trauma’s clinical aspects, including the bond between victims and perpetrators and its lasting impact. According to the speaker, one of the most significant consequences of abuse is the dissociation of the self, that survivors often tend to experience. Furthermore, Miss Sanderson discussed practical ways a therapist can deal with clients who experience dissociation during therapy through real case examples. The speaker highlighted that dissociation can be demonstrated through various signs such as facial features, robotic and disorganised language. As well as loss of memory, somatic cues and even by switching between self-states.

Willingness | 2024 Workshop on “Working with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse”
Practitioner Wellbeing and Self-care

Miss Christiane Sanderson emphasised the importance of practitioner well-being and self-care. She categorised self-care into different facets such as work, body, mind, and emotion. Within these categories, practitioners can adopt practices which include supervision, mentoring, maintaining a balanced diet, prioritising rest, engaging in yoga, reading, learning, and reflection. These practices serve as essential tools to safeguard the well-being of practitioners in their demanding roles.

The Therapeutic Relationship and Trauma-informed Therapy

Finally, the workshop dedicated its last part to discussing the therapeutic relationship and the parameters that therapists should always keep in mind when working with survivors of child sexual abuse. The discussion highlighted the importance of therapists maintaining clarity, explicitness, and transparency. This is of utmost importance in order not to perpetuate the confusion that has characterised the client’s life so far because of the abuse. Additionally, emphasis was placed on the importance of practitioners’ awareness.As well as education about the sexual arousal cycle and the related biological processes.

Last but not least, the speaker discussed with the participants some characteristics of trauma-informed therapy. Such as becoming aware of their own history and unprocessed material. Being genuinely engaged, using a collaborative approach, respecting the survivors’ pace at healing, equalising power dynamics as mentioned above. And of course providing survivors, with hope, that they have lost throughout their experience.

Willingness | 2024 Workshop on “Working with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse”
Questions and Containment

The speaker created a safe space and gave the participants the time and freedom to express their questions, thoughts and concerns on the topic. Obviously, working with survivors of child sexual abuse can be really challenging for a professional. However, it was made clear that being touched and affected by the survivor’s story, is completely normal. It indicates that the therapists are in touch with their emotional state and can therefore use this influence therapeutically.