The Importance of "Voice" in the Long-term Treatment of Childhood Sexual Assault: A Case Study

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Peter Buirski

Second Advisor

Aubrey Austin

Third Advisor

Henrietta Pazos


Long-term therapy, Childhood sexual assault, Intersubjective perspective


After experiencing a sexual assault in childhood, people are often silenced by fear that disclosing information about their assault, or about their needs and feelings, will result in further abuse, or the traumatic loss of precious relational bonds. Existing literature from the Intersubjective Systems Perspective provides information on the mechanisms of psychopathology related to relational trauma, and how a therapist can help heal relational wounds (Atwood, Orange, & Stolorow, 2002; Buirski & Haglund, 2001; Stolorow, 2013; Stolorow, 2015). However, the existing literature does not provide a framework for how to empower clients to make specific changes in how they listen to and express their needs and emotions. This study references empowerment ideals from Feminist literature, and provides a conceptualization of a client's Internal and External Voice, and argues that these aspects of voice are necessary to honor and share one's internal experience. The case study provided illuminates how this process can look in a long-term therapy of an adult client who experienced sexual assault in childhood, and provides examples of specific language which can promote the client's Voice.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


27 pages

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