Does hypnosis help with childhood sexual abuse?


Does hypnosis help with childhood sexual abuse?


your avatar   Shari, 34-year-old woman

I believe I was sexually abused at 5 years old and off and on by relatives after that. Some of the abuse I remember clearly but some is unclear. I have had counseling for this after my daughter was born, since her birth brought these memories and feelings to the surface. I was wondering if hypnosis would help heal me. I do not believe the counselor I had helped much, because I still experience the fear of allowing myself to be touched by men (besides my husband) and the fear of being alone with any other men besides my husband. What do you think? Would hypnosis help me?


    Margaret Burr, MA, MFT


Thanks for your letter. You have some sexual abuse memories, and are considering hypnotherapy to access more and clearer memories. While this is one way that hypnosis is sometimes used, in my opinion, it would not be indicated in your treatment.

You don't say how long you tried counseling, but it does seem as though you want to heal desperately, so my assumption is that you tried therapy for a short time. You appear to be trying to "heal quickly," in fact, and are searching for a method, such as hypnosis, to do that.

The timing of your daughter's birth relating to these memories is very important. You may have unconsciously reconnected with the sexual abuse feelings either due to the physical pain and vulnerability of childbirth, postpartum depression, or the fact that you had given birth to girl and thus remembered with many aspects of your own childhood, including your sexual abuse.

While I understand your need to resolve this issue, the potential of using hypnotherapy for the purpose of "uncovering" memories is an invasive one, and has the potential be experienced as a violation, in and of itself. Dynamically, it could actually recapitulate the abuse feelings, in that, in hypnosis, someone is "doing something" to you over which you have little or no control. The most well-meaning hypnotherapist, then, could actually be aligning (dynamically) with your abusers.

In my opinion, your best option would be to return to the counselor you saw before to work through whatever came up which made you end therapy before. Chances are good, that, if you can make a commitment to simply build a relationship with this therapist, you will, in time, discover more about the underlying causes for your fears and can methodically approach them.

Yours is a complicated, difficult problem with no quick and easy answer, But, if you can learn to trust your counselor - just by doing that- you will have done a lot to heal.


Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT

This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit:


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