Healing from Military Sexual Trauma: Therapeutic Approaches for Recovery

Noah Warren
July 26, 2023

Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to any sexual harassment or assault that occurs during military service. The psychological impact of MST can be profound, often leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Fortunately, there are evidence-based therapies available to support individuals in their healing journey.

In this article, we will explore three prominent therapeutic approaches - Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) - and how they are utilized in the treatment of military sexual trauma.

military sexual trauma
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Understanding Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Military sexual trauma affects both men and women in the armed forces, and it can occur worldwide. Survivors of MST often struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation, as well as difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. It is crucial for those affected by MST to seek professional help in order to address the emotional and psychological wounds inflicted by these experiences.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a therapeutic approach grounded in the belief that individuals have the capacity for both acceptance and change. Developed by Marsha M. Linehan, DBT combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness practices.

DBT can empower survivors of MST by helping them develop skills for emotion regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness.

In the context of treating MST, DBT can assist survivors in managing intense emotions, reducing self-destructive behaviors, and improving interpersonal relationships.

By cultivating mindfulness, survivors can gain greater self-awareness, enhance their ability to cope with distress, and ultimately work toward healing.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a well-established therapeutic modality that focuses on examining and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors. CBT aims to help survivors recognize and replace negative thinking and develop healthier coping strategies.

Through structured sessions and homework assignments, survivors learn to identify thoughts and beliefs related to their trauma and examine their validity. CBT equips individuals with practical skills to manage distressing symptoms, increase self-awareness, and reframe negative perceptions associated with their traumatic experiences.This approach can be especially effective for MST survivors who may experience feelings of self-blame or shame.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is an evidence-based therapy specifically designed to address the symptoms of PTSD. Developed by Francine Shapiro, EMDR integrates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), bilateral stimulation, and psychodynamic therapy to facilitate trauma healing.

EMDR focuses on accessing and processing traumatic memories, enabling individuals to reprocess traumatic experiences in a safe and controlled environment. By following the therapist's guidance and engaging in eye movements, taps, or tones, individuals engage in bilateral stimulation that facilitates the integration of disturbing memories. This process can significantly reduce the emotional impact of traumatic memories and help survivors find resolution and profound healing.

Roots Mental Wellness: A Path to Recovery

At Roots Mental Wellness, we understand the unique challenges faced by survivors of military sexual trauma. We offer an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) specifically designed to support individuals on their healing journey, and our services are available virtually to ensure accessibility for all.

Our comprehensive program incorporates various evidence-based therapies, including DBT, CBT, and EMDR, delivered by highly skilled and compassionate clinicians. With a focus on individualized care, we provide a safe and supportive environment where survivors can make strides towards healing, growth, and reclaiming personal power.

Healing from military sexual trauma is a complex and individualized process, but with the right therapeutic approaches, recovery is possible. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are three effective modalities utilized in treating MST.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, consider reaching out to Roots Mental Wellness. Our Intensive Outpatient Program for sexual trauma provides comprehensive care, compassion, and expertise, helping survivors reclaim their lives and find hope in the midst of adversity.

Remember, you are not alone. Healing is possible.

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Noah Warren
Director of Business Development