Archive for the ‘Therapy’ Category

What Do You Know About Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence?

In Sexual Assault Awareness, Therapy on June 28, 2012 at 5:00 am

Transgender indivdiuals are people whose gender identity may not match their sex assigned at birth. The transgender community includes anyone who might identify with this defintion. Someone who is transgender may not necessarily want or seek sexual reassignment surgery, which is important to keep in mind when working with trans* survivors. Members of the transgender community face many of the same barriers as the rest of the LGBT community, as well as their own set of issues related to transphobia lack of understanding about the transgender community.

Quick Facts About Transgender Survivors of Sexual Assault:

Approximately 1% of the U.S. population is transgender.
Approximately 30% of transgender individuals have been assaulted by an intimate partner.
Approximately 48% of transgender individuals are raped or assaulted more than once in their lifetime.
82% of transgender individuals that have been assaulted do not report their assault to authorities.
42% of transgender who have experienced sexual assault(s) say that gender was a contributing factor.

Tomorrow we will also be talking about the Transgender community, so make sure to check out that post as well!
Retrieved from:

Fact Sheet:  Transgender Survivors of Sexual Violence

LGBTQ – A Little History

In Therapy on June 21, 2012 at 5:00 am

Homosexuality used to be a diagnosable mental health disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The diagnosis was removed in 1973 after the movements that occurred in the 60s and 70s as well as after research on sexuality was completed by Alfred Kinsey. His research demonstrated that not only does sexuality fall on a continuum, but that homosexuality can be found across cultures.


Some Native Americans, to include the Navajo, honored those who did not conform to traditional gender roles. The Navajo believed that these individuals had two spirits dwelling in one body. When settlers came to America, the Navajo were often forced to accept the traditions of the settlers causing the concept of two spirited individuals to be ignored. Today the Native American population is working towards reviving the concept of two spirited individuals and educating the public through writing and documentaries.


Despite societal changes and the removal of the diagnosis of homosexuality from the DSM, the LGBTQ community continues to face many barriers to treatment. Many in the LGBTQ have experienced rejection or feelings of isolation when others have responded to them negatively due to myths and stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. Individuals may have also experienced hate crimes or have had difficulty reporting sexual assault or domestic violence for fear that the responder may not be supportive or educated on how to provide for his or her needs. These are just some of the many barriers to treatment that the LGBTQ community faces on a daily basis.


An individual should never be prevented from receiving needed services due to discrimination. Here at RCASA, we work to create a safe space by breaking down the barriers that minorities may feel when in need of services. Everyone deserves respect and we encourage you to help those who may need services break down those barriers as well. You can help break down barriers by becoming educated, by just listening without judgment or advice, by respecting confidentiality but not shaming the person by making the person feel as though they should be secretive and cannot talk to you, and by inquiring how you can be supportive to the individual and offering that support.


Information in this blog was taken from:

Support Groups Offered at RCASA

In Therapy on June 14, 2012 at 11:22 am


RCASA offers a variety of support groups for survivors of sexual violence. Click on the links below to learn more about each group.


Teen Support Group

Walk-in Informational Group

Women’s Group


If you are interested in any of these groups or are in need of any of our services please call our office Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 5 PM at 540-371-6771 or our hotline (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year) at 540-371-1666.


Therapy Thursday – On LGBTQ Survivors of Sexual Assault

In Therapy on June 14, 2012 at 5:00 am

How Much Do You Know About LBGT Sexual Assault Victims?

  • Sexual minorities experience the same forms of sexual violence as the larger community.  Additionally, sexual minorities experience the same emotional responses as the larger community, such as anger, anxiety, depression, dissociation, low self-esteem, self-hatred, and shame.
  • Six percent of all anti-LGBT hate crimes are incidents of sexual assault or forcible rape.
  • More than half of gay men and lesbians report at least one incident of sexual coercion by a same-sex partner.
  • Anti-LGBT crimes have increased over the last decade, with particular increases in both sexual assault and murder
  • LGB adults are more likely to experience interpersonal violence than heterosexual counterparts.

How Can you Be A Helpful Ally, Friend, or

Partner of LBGT Sexual Assault Victims?

  • Believe your friend or partner who has been raped.
  • Respect the need for confidentiality.
  • Avoid judgmental comments.
  • Control your own feelings of anger and/or frustration.
  • Ask how you can be helpful rather than giving unsolicited advice.
  • Respect their decisions even when yours might be different.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Offer unconditional love and support.

 All information was taken from:

 Cramer, R. (2012).  Mental health in violent crime victims: Does sexual orientation matter?  Law and Human Behavior, Vol 36(2), pp. 87-95.





RCASA Therapy Thursday – The Danger of Avoidance

In Therapy, Trauma on May 17, 2012 at 6:36 am

Nallor, Bunting, and Vazdarjanova (2011) suggest that traumatic experiences can lead individuals to develop phobias and PTSD, but that generally only about a fourth of the population goes on to develop diagnosable anxiety disorders. This is not to say that individuals do not experience symptoms after a trauma. Many trauma survivors will experience symptoms such as hyperarousal, nightmares, changes in self-esteem, changes in sleep, etc. Sherin and Nemeroff (2011) explain that the amygdala, which processes our emotions, becomes hyper alert after a trauma contributing to many of the symptoms noted earlier. However, survivors who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder experience these symptoms for a prolonged period of time and the symptoms begin to interfere with their functioning in different areas of their life including occupationally and socially. So, what is the difference between individuals who go on to develop PTSD or another anxiety disorder and those who are more resilient?


Research is still being completed in this area. Littleton, Axsom, and Grills-Taquechel (2011) completed a study following the Virginia Tech Shooting on the relationship between distress and how individuals coped with trauma. The researchers found that psychological distress was directly related to attempting to avoid thoughts and feelings surrounding the trauma. Interestingly, the researchers noted that the distress was greater at a year than it had been at the six month follow-up. Avoidance strategies may initially appear beneficial to the person but over time appear to produce more distress. Pineles, Mostoufi, Ready, Street, Griffin, and Resick (2011) also suggest that avoiding the trauma can interfere with the natural healing process for a person who reacts strongly to trauma reminders by inhibiting the processing of the memories. Why did I share all of this information with you? I want to invite you to learn more about RCASA’s counseling services either for yourself if needed or to tell others about it who may be in need. Counseling can assist individuals in processing the trauma of sexual assault in a safe environment, hopefully before a diagnosis of social phobia or PTSD. Avoidance of the trauma may feel better in the beginning but studies have shown that avoidance leads to danger in the future by delaying the healing process and increasing distress. Please do not avoid the trauma, but have the courage to give us a call as we are always here to support you when you are ready.


Works Cited


Nallor, Rebecca, Bunting, Kristopher, and Vazdarjanova, Almira. (2011). Predicting Impaired Extinction of Traumatic Memory and Elevated Startle Response. Plos One, 6(5) Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3097191/?tool=pubmed  


Pineles, Suzanne L., Mostoufi, Sheeva M., Ready, C.B., Street, Amy E., Griffin, Michael G., and Resick, Patricia A. (2011). Trauma Reactivity, Avoidant Coping, and PTSD Symptoms: A Moderating Relationship? National Institute of Health 120(1) Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336155/?tool=pubmed


Sherin, Jonathan E. and Nemeroff, Charles B. (2011). Post-traumatic stress disorder: impact of psychological trauma. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 13(3) Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3182008/?tool=pubmed

RCASA Therapy Thursday: Meet Our New Intern Marri!

In Therapy on May 10, 2012 at 5:00 am

Hello RCASA Team!  My name is Marrisa (Marri) Clarke.  My practicum at RCASA begins on June 4, 2012 and my internship begins on September 3, 2012.  Although my practicum begins in June, I have had the privilege of volunteering at RCASA since Fall 2008!  I have served as both a hotline and a hospital accompaniment volunteer.  In addition to volunteering at RCASA, I began volunteering at Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence (RCDV) in January 2009.  I volunteered primarily as an open group co-facilitator for female survivors of domestic violence.  Later in 2009 I was offered a part-time position at RCDV co-facilitating a male juvenile offender group.  Since beginning my volunteer and part-time positions, I find volunteering/working in a helping profession to be completely fulfilling and rewarding!!

I obtained a bachelors degree in Political Science from University of Mary Washington.  After graduating from UMW I worked for a few years in the federal government before focusing my career in Human Resources.  For approximately 10 years of my career I worked as a Human Resources Professional.  I obtained a Masters Degree in Management (concentration:  Human Resources Management) from University of Maryland University College.  I also became a certified Human Resources Professional a few years after attaining my degree in Human Resources.  Although there were aspects of human resources I enjoyed I often felt like I needed to be in a profession where I could help people with their problems.  I saw quite a few people in my career come to work with many issues that they did not know how to deal with.  However, as a Human Resources Professional I was not in a position to help them with their emotional issues.

Shortly after having my daughter in 2006 I took time off to not only spend with her, but to also rethink whether or not I wanted to continue working in Human Resources.  I did quite a bit of soul searching and decided, particularly since I was so passionate about reaching out and helping others, to focus on changing careers and gaining a degree in counseling.

Therefore, in Fall 2009 I began working towards a degree in Mental Health Counseling at Walden.  I finished my coursework in February 2012.  After I complete my practicum and internship I can graduate!

Finally and most importantly, everyone at RCASA has always been so helpful and knowledgeable!  The staff at RCASA is AWESOME!  I am so happy that I have the opportunity to complete my practicum and internship at RCASA.  Thank you!

RCASA Therapy Thursday: Meet Our New Intern Beth!

In Therapy on April 12, 2012 at 5:00 am

Hello everyone, I am a new intern with RCASA. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to introduce myself as RCASA is a very busy place. My name is Elizabeth. I obtained my bachelors degree from Lynchburg College with a major in Psychology and double minor in gender studies and elementary education. I recently graduated with my Masters in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in counseling from Loyola University in Maryland.

 During my graduate education, I had the opportunity to complete a few externships and gain valuable experience. I completed my first two externships at Johns Hopkins Alcohol and Addiction center. I had expected to learn a great deal about addiction and coping skills, which I did, but I also learned a great deal more. I learned how to be tough and supportive at the same time. I was reminded how much I appreciated honesty from others. I learned that you can learn something from the most unexpected of sources. Most importantly, my clients taught me “fake it until you make it.” Now I keep at each new challenge until I overcome it, accomplish something, or simply learn from it.

 My third and fourth externship experiences were at an inpatient hospital. At this site I completed assessments, facilitated individual meetings with patients, facilitated couples meetings, led thought processing groups, and completed case management duties. I learned a great deal about treating the entire person rather than addressing just the symptoms. I learned about community resources, support groups, and how to incorporate family into treatment. I also was exposed to music and expressive therapy.

 During my graduate experience, I also worked at a rehabilitation day program with chronically mentally ill patients. I assisted patients in creating and reaching their recovery goals. I taught a smoking cessation class and took clients on community outings.

 Now I am interning as a therapist for RCASA as I work towards my goal as a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virgina. I have truly enjoyed the experience so far and have learned a great deal more already. No matter how old you are, there is always something to learn. I am truly honored to work with such a great group of people. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to introduce myself.

Therapy Thursday-Books related to the brain and/or trauma:

In Sexual Assault Awareness, Therapy on April 5, 2012 at 5:00 am

 Books related to the brain and/or trauma:

 A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon

  •  This book details in non-clinical language the amazing science of love, attachment, and even intuition.  The authors comment about the impact of love on development, from the growth of an individual to that of a society.  A very fascinating and important read.

 The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog (and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook) by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

  •  This book is as much riveting as it is heart-wrenching.  It is hard to put down because of it’s dually well-crafted and intense nature.  At the same time, it clearly presents how the brain is impacted in traumatic events and how the power of human relationships may provide healing.  Reading this is immensely helpful to understanding trauma.

 Meaningful Stories

Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen

  • Provides an excellent collection of short stories that spur meaningful conversation, thought, and art.  She also has a collection entitled My Grandfather’s Blessings, which similarly provides quick and delectable reading for those who prefer or need quicker chapters.

Happy Reading!

Therapy Thursday-Call For Artwork

In Art therapy, Sexual Assault Awareness, Therapy on March 29, 2012 at 5:00 am

Call for Artwork- Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Check out these links.




Therapy Thursday-Smart Planning

In Sexual Assault Awareness, Therapy on March 22, 2012 at 5:00 am

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”  ~Pooh’s Little Instruction Book 

Most of us have experienced the stress of making numerous plans in an already tight schedule and running from activity to activity with little hope of being on time. Many people, however, have not experienced planning “me time” into their schedule. It is important to note that each person’s time for him or herself varies in length of time and type of activity. The activities can vary from a five-minute check in with oneself to a day of doing nothing but watching your favorite movies on the couch. Either way, allotting time for oneself has numerous benefits. For one, planning time for oneself hopefully makes sure “me time” happens as well as reduces guilt about not doing other things on your to do list. As Pooh’s Little Instruction Book suggests, listen to all the things on your to do list screaming to be done but simply choose to not hear them during the time set aside for yourself. 

Secondly, taking time for oneself can act as a stress management tool provided the outlet is considered a healthy one. Pooh’s Little Instruction Book was correct about not underestimating the value of “just going along” at times rather than always completing things on the dreaded to do list. According to Weiten (2007), stress is associated with several physical ailments including ulcers, high blood pressure, muscle tension, low back pain, flare ups of irritable bowel syndrome, and the common cold to name a few. Many factors are associated with the development of physical ailments but researchers believe that stress, in particular, weakens the immune system facilitating the development of illness. Stress is not inherently unhealthy. Stress can motivate people to accomplish things or to develop coping strategies and other strengths they were not even aware they had the ability to develop. Stress, however, that is not balanced with other moderating factors, such as “me time”, has the potential to be detrimental to one’s health. Balancing responsibility with self-care is important. 

If taking time for you is a new concept, no worries, we have a few suggestions. As mentioned earlier, just stopping at some point in the day and asking “How am I feeling?” or “Is my body tense or relaxed?” can be a simple way to take “me time”. Other ways might be to complete relaxation exercises. Here is a website with relaxation scripts to choose from: http://www. innerhealthstudio.com/visualization-relaxation.html. (Please pay attention to the health and safety note from website designer.) If your doctor gives permission, exercise is a great way to take time just for you. Journaling is another way to plan time for you. Here is a website for journal topics for beginners: http://www.canteach.ca/elementary/ prompts.html. We wish you all the luck in creating a schedule with both responsibilities and time just for you and starting smart planning!

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