Sexual Health Recovery for Women with Trauma Histories: A Psycho-educational and Holistic Approach
Women with unresolved sexual trauma comprise a large percentage of the women in substance abuse programs. This workshop will advance the professional’s ability to work with survivors of sexual trauma. Through a psycho-educational approach, participants will learn strategies to assess and create a sex positive approach to serving women impacted by abuse.
Treatment programs can provide at risk women the opportunity to voice past trauma and heal in ways that support their future sobriety. Through this learning process, participants will discuss guidelines needed for an agency-wide commitment to support women’s sexual recovery. Organizational questions will be provided. Attendees will collaborate on ways to enhance agency readiness towards healthy sexual lives for women served.
Sexual recovery, the provision to have a healthy sexual relationship while maintaining abstinence, offers women the chance to learn how to swim in deep water with the knowledge and skills needed to survive and transform their lives. Moving beyond assessment of sexual history towards sexual health capacity, the attendee will look in detail at a case example of a woman with a sexual trauma history. A tailored designed sexual recovery plan aimed at relapse prevention will be developed.
To gain appreciation and consideration of the events and experiences that have impacted women served, such as how they see themselves as sexual beings, an exercise, Stepping Stones and Self-Discovery is planned. This activity is designed to identify significant events that have shaped the participants’ sexual journey. Implications for working with women with substance and trauma histories will be explored.
The conclusion of the workshop will focus on a positive approach towards sexuality, Spirituality and the Woman Warrior. As an experiential exercise, participants, through art and music, will explore within them their own woman warrior. The strength and resiliency that is tapped can serve as a bridge of hope for women impacted by trauma and deserving of their right to healthy and safe lives.
Goals/Objectives of the Two-Part Workshop
In this two-part workshop, participants will:
- Recognize the role of their own personal values, beliefs, and attitudes in working with clients on sexual recovery;
- Examine current agency-wide practices in serving women in the area of sexual recovery;
- Look at the research on the intersection of HIV and intimate partner violence and the role of inefficacy in women’s susceptibility to viral transmission;
- Investigate the theoretical background of women with trauma and high-risk sexual behaviors;
- Appreciate the importance of language in sexual communication;
- Review the basics of Sex 101, HIV, and Sexually Transmitted Infections;
- Identify strategies for safety planning and sexual intimacy for women with trauma histories;
- Learn psycho-educational and holistic approaches to supporting women on the prevention of relapse due to triggers associated with trauma and drug-linked behaviors.
Part I of this workshop will look at the why’s and how’s behind women’s risky sexual behavior as impacted by substance abuse. An innovative curriculum, Sanctuary for Change, will be presented in Part I. Sanctuary for Change is designed to enhance women’s capacity to explore, define, and implement sexual health choices aimed at reducing high-risk behaviors associated with relapse and the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The internationally acclaimed author and consultant in gender and trauma-informed services for women, Dr. Stephanie Covington, have endorsed this curriculum. It was first implemented at Amethyst, a women’s substance abuse treatment center in Columbus, Ohio. Of the women who participated in the pilot program at Amethyst, 100% reported being highly committed to safer sex practices at the completion of the program.
In Part I, participants will examine a case example of a woman impacted by trauma and substance abuse. They will also engage in sample exercises from the curriculum that they may use in discussing sexuality with their clients.
Part II of this workshop will take a closer look at the role of the human service professional in supporting women’s ability to remain sober and live a sexually healthful and meaningful life. As has been demonstrated by research, counselors and case managers may be hesitant to engage in discussions about sexuality and its role in recovery. Professionals cite lack of knowledge, uncertainty about how to bring up the topic, fear of appearing intrusive, and a host of other concerns as reasons not discussing sexuality with their clients.
In Part II of this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to explore their own personal values, beliefs, and attitudes as they work with women with addiction and sexual trauma. They will learn a psycho-educational and holistic approach for supporting clients on the prevention and management of relapse due to trauma and sex and drug-linked triggers. They will also role play facilitating and supporting the client’s sexual recovery by suspending judgment and encouraging client authenticity of sexual self. The intent of the role-play is to support the client as she struggles to maintain her sobriety and achieve self-efficacy in the choices she makes regarding her sexuality.