Non-linear healing …


Non-linear healing … “Healing is not linear; the cycle is often repeated.” Judith Herman.

My impressions about healing with a past that includes childhood sexual abuse are expressed in the attached diagram.  I designed the illustration to help convey concepts that I am still coming to understand.  I am not an expert in childhood sexual abuse healing.  I am just another survivor trying to make my way through life.

The “Nonlinear Stages of Healing” diagram was a combination of several different resources that I have noted in my resources below. I choose a “Venn diagram” because I liked the way the circular healing stages continuously overlapped.  I placed a heart in the center of the diagram so I would never forget that I am the most important part of healing. The tools are just floating freely about the stages where they might be most useful. Of course, the tools I have listed are not the only ones available so feel free to add on or move them around as needed. Make it YOUR healing journey!

Healing is a nonlinear on-going daily process. There is no magical or methodical scientific formula.   It is also definitely not a race where you are competing with other survivors.  My healing journey is still an evolving process and my views about healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse are definitely not a definitive source.  There is not one definitive way to heal, however; there are some similar approaches that have helped most survivors.  I think it helps to talk to a counselor or therapist about your past, find the problem causing patterns or themes that keep repeating in your life, and work on finding solutions to current life issues.

There are tools that can be used to help this healing such as, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) where you monitor your thoughts and record your “stuck point” and use a challenging thought worksheet.  PTSD is a typical outcome for most people with a history of child sexual abuse and CPT is an excellent tool for anyone with a trauma history.   Of course, CPT is just one of many tools to help and there are many other recovery tools.  Healing from childhood sexual abuse is nothing like following a recipe or marking off a check list.  The healing process will most likely be repeated numerous times with new revelations or deeper understandings each time they are approached.  Just when you think you are done, something else creeps up.

Healing is also a cumulative process where the new growth is added to the old growth.  The process is often repeated but we do not lose what we have already gained from past experience.  Even if we repeat a mistake, many times we gained something different from this mistake that we did not get the last time.  We don’t start from “scratch” each time we go through the healing process. So the healing cycle is often repeated but this healing cycle is also cumulative.

Another tool I and others have used is from the book The Courage to Heal … The following is a quick few word summary of the Healing Stages for childhood sexual abuse based on the Stages of Healing from The Courage to Heal, Bass and Davis, pp. 56-57 c2008.  I have named a few of them a little different based on my own experiences.

Healing Stage Review

  • Decision to Heal
  • Safety First
  • Remembering
  • Believing/Self-Trust
  • Breaking Silence
  • Innocent
  • Life Skills (Inner Child)
  • Grieving
  • Anger
  • Disclosure
  • Forgiveness
  • Spirituality
  • Resolution

Attached is a PDF of the 2008 version of “The Stages” from the Courage to Heal.THE STAGE1

The following link is a list from the 1988 version of the Courage to Heal.  Notice the 1988 version differs from the 2008 version of the Courage to Heal.

Another excellent website resource includes a different summary of the Healing Stages from the 2008 version of the Courage to Heal.  The website includes some additional healing tips too.


There are several resources and guidelines available regarding healing with a history of childhood sexual abuse. Please feel free to check into the resources that I offered and into resources of your own to draw your own conclusions.

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis (1988 & 2008)

Wounded Boys Heroic Men: A Man’s Guide to Recovering from Child Abuse by Daniel Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker (1998)

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror.  New York: Basic Books. Herman, JL. (1992) (This book may not be considered a book about healing from childhood sexual abuse, however, for me; it helped me to get in touch with my anger for the first time.  This book helped me to realize just how wrong everything that was done to me like no other book could.)

Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA) .  They offer a large variety of literature you may purchase through their website at

Reclaiming Myself After Child Sex Abuse – FREE PDF BOOK

Therapy Guidelines: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Wellington: ACC Healthwise. McGregor, K. (2001).

CPTWeb, the site for web-based learning of Cognitive Processing Therapy.

Numerous other books on Amazon – Be sure to read the reviews and pick one that you relate to the best.

If you cannot afford these books remember to check out your local library.  I have also found that if you Google the title of the book sometimes you will find a free chapter or excerpts from your book of interest


One Comment on “Non-linear healing …”

  1. John Miller says:

    An extremely informative and interesting post, Paula! 🙂

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