The role of memory in the therapy of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse: women survivors tell their stories

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Ewing, Kimberly J.

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University of Guelph


The purpose of this study was to expand the understanding of the role of memory, from the client's perspective, in the therapy of women who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This exploratory and descriptive study was designed to gain some understanding of how survivors experience their memories in therapy and how working with memories in therapy impact on their functioning. The study incorporates a feminist perspective and qualitative methods. Six women who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and have been out of therapy for at least one year were interviewed. Transcriptions of the interviews were analyzed using constant comparative coding procedures. Categories and themes are presented in some detail. The findings suggest that the women experienced and remembered memories of abuse in multiple ways both implicitly and explicitly. Findings also indicated that although the women's therapies did not directly focus on recalling memories of abuse or re-living feelings associated to the abuse, they experienced both a negative and positive impact from working with abuse memories. The relationship of findings to the previous literature is discussed and the implications of the study for therapy and future research. Beginning guidelines for working with survivors' memories of abuse and recommendations from participants are provided.



memory, client perspective, therapy, women, adult survivor, childhood sexual abuse