STAGE ONE: DESPAIR When survivors first begin counseling for psychological abuse recovery, many don’t even know they have been abused. They do know life has become unmanageable, and they are looking for answers. Some don’t yet understand the full depth of what has been done to them by the abuser( s). At the beginning of counseling, survivors are (more times than not) in emotional chaos, anxious, depressed, or suicidal. Sometimes all of the above and more. The very first place we start is their safety to not harm themselves. Once that has been established, we begin the work of identifying the despair the survivor feels. The first stage of recovery can be a scary season in life. Luckily, several more stages follow, and hope begins to shine through.
STAGE TWO: EDUCATION Psychological abuse is exceptionally insidious and therefore misunderstood. That is precisely part of the abuser( s) tactic to keep the abuse hidden and remain firmly in control. A victim cannot begin recovery if they can’t describe what has been done to them. Learning the common methods employed by psychological abusers is Stage Two. Survivors new to recovery should know what the following terms mean in relationship to psychological abuse: Gaslighting Smear Campaign Flying Monkeys Narcissistic Offense Intermittent Reinforcement Idealize, Devalue, and Discard Phases
STAGE THREE: AWAKENING When survivors have identified their Despair from having been psychologically abused (Stage One), and then Educated themselves on the specific ways abusers harm others (Stage Two), an Awakening happens for the survivor (Stage Three). This is the point in recovery when many aha moments happen. Survivors can describe what they experienced, have learned new terminology, and in doing so, no longer feel isolated in the abuse. At this stage, a survivor may start to feel empowered in their recovery journey. However, there are good days and bad days. It is common for survivors to swing back to Despair and then forward to Awakening again. This is normal and part of the process of deprogramming and healing from the psychological abuse.
STAGE FOUR: BOUNDARIES After a survivor of psychological abuse has identified their Despair (Stage One), Educated themselves on the specifics of psychological abuse (Stage Two), and had an Awakening that recovery is possible (Stage Three), the next stage is implementing Boundaries. This is the time when survivors choose to implement Detached Contact or No Contact. The important part of this stage is that a survivor is able to gain enough emotional distance to detox from the trauma bonding and start looking forward to their life of recovery. Boundaries are individually driven and must be done in a way that will be followed through on by the survivor. At times, survivors waiver on setting limits with their abuser( s). To set healthy limits may mean the end of the relationship. It is not uncommon for some survivors to get stuck at this stage.
STAGE FIVE: RESTORATION After a survivor of psychological abuse has identified their Despair (Stage One), Educated themselves on the specifics of psychological abuse (Stage Two), had an Awakening that recovery is possible (Stage Three), and implemented Boundaries (Stage Four), the next stage is the Restoration of the material items, life event moments, financial stability, physical health, mental health, or any other losses the survivor identifies as having been stolen during the season of abuse. This should be an encouraging stage as survivors start to tangibly see the fruits of their recovery work. Restoration can take longer than survivors expect so patience with the process of recovery is vitally important. Without patience, a survivor can become easily discouraged.
STAGE SIX: MAINTENANCE After a survivor of psychological abuse has identified their Despair (Stage One), Educated themselves on the specifics of psychological abuse (Stage Two), had an Awakening that recovery is possible (Stage Three), implemented Boundaries (Stage Four), and experienced Restoration of losses during the abuse (Stage Five), the final stage of recovery from psychological abuse is Maintenance. During this sixth and last stage, survivors will often willingly loop back to earlier stages and experience deeper levels of healing. The Maintenance stage also involves being able to experience healthy relationships going forward and identify toxic people quicker than previously. Maintenance is when a survivor fully lives their life of recovery with the confidence and skills to keep themselves safe from future abuse.
LCSW, Shannon Thomas (2016-08-30). Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse (Kindle Location 409). MAST Publishing. Kindle Edition.