Integrated Feeling Therapy Centers of New York City and New Paltz

Integrated Feeling Therapy Blog

Working with Emotionally Abused Clients

When working with clients who were emotionally abused it is important to approach them with love and kindness. They often have internalized the voice of their abuser and made it their own. They use this voice to interact and understand the world they live in. This voice creates a sense of fear, shame, rejection, low self-worth, and low self-efficacy. They often find themselves unconsciously choosing friends, lovers, employers, etc. who continue the emotional abuse. Freud called this the repetition compulsion. Unconsciously we recreate our past as way of making sense of it and/or as a way of trying to heal it.

In the present it is important to help emotionally abused clients identify whose abusive voice they have internalized. People are not born hating themselves – this is a learned behavior. Deep inside of most people resides a positive supportive voice that needs to be identified and strengthened. To facilitate this process we support our clients to develop a lifestyle that is nurturing and supportive. This creates a positive voice that helps counteract the negative imprint from early emotional abuse.  This is not to say that the negative voice inside of person’s head will disappear completely. The past cannot be erased, but the power it has over an individual will weaken as the person works through their emotional abuse and regains their ability to love and be loved.

We support our clients to search within themselves to find the source of their pain. It is only when they feel the fear and panic that accompanied their abuse that they are able to make decisions about their life in the present that really work for them. Intellectualizing and just talking about emotional abuse is not ultimately curative. Humans experience the world with both their mind and body, and memories and emotions are stored this way. Healing must occur on all levels if we want profound change; IFT provides that opportunity.