Getting Emotional Help: Finding a Therapist
Rape, sexual assault, and sexual coercion can have lasting effects
on your mental health. That is because these are serious violations
of your body and trust — and not because you are not strong. As a
survivor, you might develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or insomnia after an incident.
You might struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy.
None of these responses to trauma make you a weak person, and
there are many resources to help you feel better.
“I thought it was normal. I thought I probably brought it on myself. I thought no one would care. I thought it probably didn’t matter anyway. I thought I wasn’t important enough to bother. I thought I was alone.” — Anonymous Survivor
Psychotherapists help us navigate through difficult times of our lives, find new meaning in trauma, and teach us helpful coping skills. Psychotherapists usually hold degrees in counseling, social work, or psychology. It is helpful to search for a trauma-informed therapist, as they specialize in treating survivors.
Finding a psychotherapist can seem like a big undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Psychology Today and GoodTherapy.org, for example, have therapist search engines that allow you to search by specialty, insurance, or by the kind of treatment they offer. Once you have found a couple of therapists that accept your insurance, offer a sliding-scale fee, and have a history of working with trauma patients, give them a call to set up an initial consultation. This will allow you to figure out whether you and the psychotherapist will work well together. It’s okay if it takes a while to find a therapist that is the right fit for you.
Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, and have the ability to prescribe medication. Your therapist might refer you to a psychiatrist if they believe that psychiatric medication would help you feel better.
Online or Text-Based Therapy
If in-person therapy is not for you, you can speak to someone online from the comfort of your own home.
- Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line is a free crisis texting service staffed by trained volunteers. You can text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to be matched with a volunteer.
- BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers affordable, private online counseling.
- TalkSpace. TalkSpace offers online therapy with a licensed therapist.
- 911. If you are in danger or suicidal, please call 911.
A Note About Treatments
Some psychotherapeutic treatments, including EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), PE (prolonged exposure), and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), have been found to be highly effective on trauma survivors. When looking for a therapist, ask them if they offer these treatments. Do not be discouraged if they don’t — they might still be able to help you.
Department of Veterans Affairs: Trauma Treatments
Job Accommodations Network (JAN)
National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
Psychology Today: Find a Therapist
RAINN: Tips for Talking with Survivors of Sexual Assault