Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse

counselingDr. Langberg is one of the leading figures in the Christian community when it comes to counseling childhood sexual abuse. At the time when she wrote this book she had about twenty-give years of experience in counseling those who have been sexually abused as children. She not only understands the process of helping victims become survivors, but she addresses it from a Christian perspective. What is more, she is able to connect with the counselor and offer valuable and practical insights about what to do and not do to help victims. Even though much new information has been discovered and added to the field of trauma counseling in the past several decades, this book still has much to offer.

The book is divided into seven parts. In the first part Langberg writes about “Foundations to the Treatment of Sexual Abuse.” With the help of a case study, she walks the reader through the process of child development and how the trauma of sexual abuse can interfere with this process. She also provides definitions and explains the process of therapy. Her theology is markedly Evangelical, so the Lutheran reader will note that she reflects an Evangelical understanding of the image of God. Yet often her spiritual and biblical insights are helpful and the Lutheran reader will learn to appreciate her emphasis on the power and importance of the Word.

In the next three chapters the author works through the three phases of therapy and gives much practical advice. Langberg notes that a key part of the healing process is sorting out truth and lies, something that can be very difficult for victims. They may have been fed one lie after another by their perpetrators. In a sense their experience of abuse has taught them the lies that God does not care, that he does not answer prayer, that he is not all-powerful. Langberg notes,

When confronted with evil or terrible suffering, we find our faith in the goodness, love, and power of God to be profoundly shaken. As the survivor confronts her life without pretending, she will have to rework her faith so that her relationship to God is not predicated on denying the truth. Is God good, loving, and powerful even though the evidence in her life appears to scream to the contrary? In part, the crisis of faith is whether or not truth will be derived from life’s circumstances or from God’s Word (page 197).

Part five deals with some special considerations: dissociative disorders, false memory syndrome, and male survivors. This is helpful information for those who care for those who have been abused.

In the last two parts Langberg addresses the person of the therapist and the profile of a compassionate church. The final section is especially helpful for pastoral counselors as the Christian community has not always been a comfortable place for victims or survivors of CSA. The author provides a lengthy list of survivor’s needs and another of potential hindrances to effective helping.

This book demonstrates that while a pastoral counselor will want to refer a wounded member to competent clinical care, he will also want to provide the appropriate pastoral care that will help the hurting person make the transition from being a victim to a survivor of sexual abuse. Both play a vital role in the healing process.

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Author: Langberg, Diane Mandt
299 pages

Reviewed by: John D. Schuetze on 5/20/2015

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