Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group – Healing From Abuse The Proven Way
Hi Everyone! I’m Coach Gaelyn, and I’m one of the APSATS Certified Coaches here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m also a Certified Professional Life Coach, Couples Relationship Coach, Divorce Recovery Coach and the Coaching Coordinator for our entire team of coaches here at BTR.org.
I’m deeply passionate about the work that I do with women healing from sexual betrayal trauma. And more often than not, that passion translates into me having a lot to say, whenever Anne offers to hand me the microphone!
I am grateful to share this “on-air” time with you this week, and here’s why: within the next few days, I’ll be starting three new support groups for women healing from sexual betrayal trauma. I’ve been busy answering email inquiries from many of you who are planning to join me, so it’s nice to go ahead and connect with you by voice along the way.
So with the time we’ve got here today, I’m going to give you a marathon “sneak peek” into some of the highlights I’ve found are important for women who are healing—specifically within a group recovery context—from the impact of sexual betrayal trauma.
Is Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Right For Me?
For those of you who’ve been wondering if a BTR Group is right for you, I hope this podcast will further pique your interest, ignite your own passion for your own healing, and provide some clarifying reassurance that your intuition is leading you in precisely the right direction.
Before we go much further though, I’ve got a question for all of YOU! Because our theme today is healing within groups, I’d love to hear about the pros and cons you’ve encountered in various recovery circles. What would you say is the number one thing you get from a healthy group of recovering women? What’s that special “something” you just don’t get on your own? Or from a book? Or from individual work with a coach or therapist or clergy person? Have you had any negative group experiences, environments that felt unhealthy, unsafe or unproductive? And if you had one suggestion for coaches like me, who develop and facilitate groups of women healing from sexual betrayal trauma? We would really love to hear those comments too! We invite you to share your thoughts anonymously below—and if this podcast itself helped you, serving as your virtual audio “support group,” please consider rating it on iTunes! Doing so helps other women in trauma find us more easily, discovering (sometimes for the very first time) a community of women who understand this whole experience.
The Advantages Of Group Healing For Betrayal Trauma & Related Behaviors Like Gaslighting, Narcissistic Traits, Emotional Abuse
Now, I’ve been part of a lot of different groups over these past 11 years, facilitated by different leaders, functioning within different guidelines, meeting different goals and objectives and priorities. In reflecting back over these groups and analyzing the ones wherein I’ve found the most healing? I’ve identified my favorite group format for live, realtime, interactive coaching groups.
When I refer to a “live” coaching group, I’m referring to our interactive, online daily group sessions we offer here at BTR. You can see the schedule by clicking here. we meet at a specific time and day of the week—just as you would if you attended a local support group, therapy group or recovery meeting. Here at BTR, we use a virtual meeting platform called Zoom—and the cool thing is, you can join our group sessions in whatever manner works best for you—whether that’s logging in “on screen” from your computer, tablet or smart phone, or dialing in “off screen,” meaning audio-only, from an phone—land line or cell phone.
Learning To Accept Ourselves & Then Figure Out What We Want After Betrayal
I initially heard this “First and Then” concept suggested by one of the smartest (and incidentally, one of the most spiritually down-to-earth) therapists I’ve ever met in this field of sex addiction recovery. In his signature “cut to the chase” style, this guy was answering questions from a room full of women, all of whom were desperately seeking that ideal-yet-elusive balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement. In response to this struggle, this therapist uttered a suggestion that has now become one of my favorite quotes for trying to keep my recovery life in balance:
“FIRST,” he said, “make your peace with where you are today. THEN, when you’ve done that, make yourself grow in the direction you want to be tomorrow.”
Those two sentences have helped me keep my head on straight more times than I can count, during seasons when circumstances would have otherwise set it spinning—and it’s become one of my favorite reminders when designing groups for women healing from betrayal trauma.
You see, even though I think it’s wonderful for women in recovery to focus on topics and workbooks and other kinds of study materials? You know, the kind that make us stretch and grow in future healthy directions? I honestly don’t think we can grow forward without first engaging some quality time and space to share and process the most pressing, most present, day-to-day incidents that, let’s face it, tend to happen for women who share life with men who are sexually struggling or recovering!
So these days—nearly seven years after hearing this therapist’s “First and Then” suggestion—when I design live coaching groups for women healing from betrayal, I utilize those same two sentences to orient our communal recovery process. At the beginning of every group session, I first invite each participants to talk about the week you’ve had since our last meeting, sharing the highlights and lowlights of your life and relationship. I do this by providing a shortlist of checkin questions I’ve carefully written, questions I call “Soul Celebrations—Pausing to Honor What’s Present in My World.” These questions introduce a broad spectrum of sharing prompts, such as:
- What is one thing I’ve accepted this week?
- What is one boundary I’ve created, communicated or reinforced?
- What is one risk I’ve taken this week?
- What is one self-esteem affirmation I’ve been practicing?
- What is one way I’ve enjoyed my relationship or my singleness?
- What is one personal goal I have recently set, advanced or achieved?
- What is one old idea I’ve challenged, changed or discarded?
- What is one new tool I have recently utilized in action?
- What is one fear I have faced, rather than running away or avoiding it?
- What is one hurt I’ve been feeling most deeply?
- What is one anxiety I can recognize, identify and/or address?
- What is one sign of healing I have recently observed in myself?
- What is one milestone I have celebrated this week?
- What is one area in which I’ve been using and practicing my voice?
- What is one vision for my future I have been exploring?
What I what need to share with the group tonight is… fill in the blank.
You’ve probably caught onto the point of these checkin questions, but to put them back into our “First” and “Then” context? Designing a group format with time and space for women to share their “make peace with where you are today” stuff? It genuinely and effectively serves to clear some much needed mental and emotional airspace! Once these “where you are today” stories have had their moment to be seen and heard?
That’s when the fun starts with, “Then… make yourself grow.”
By the way, one more little side note? These Soul Celebration questions, tucked within the context of a broader personal checkin tool, is something I provide to all of my coaching clients, women who join my groups or who see me individually. My clients often get the most from their coaching time by going through this checkin process, or one similar to it, before (or at the beginning of) our scheduled sessions, something I chalk up to an extension of my “First and Then” philosophy.
So, let’s move onto the second half of “First and Then”, and let’s take this group Top Ten Betrayal Trauma Topics as an example of “grow in the direction you want to be tomorrow.” Unlike most of the coaching groups we’ve offered here at BTR, Top Ten Betrayal Trauma Topics is intentionally, literally all about you and the direction you want to grow!
When women sign up for this particular group, I do something somewhat special, somewhat unpredictable but ultimately, very meaningful—I let each of our participating women nominate the topics you want to dedicate time exploring, discussing and debriefing during our three months together. This ensures that your deepest needs get addressed, and that your individual recovery goals get priority time and attention.
Believe it or not, I don’t do this simply as an act of politeness or as an attempt to guarantee client satisfaction. I do this because at its foundation, recovery from trauma involves taking our own self-empowered steps toward self-agency, self-advocacy and self-determination. In other words, by inviting you to identify what you need the most—all within a safe and reassuring circle of other women, doing exactly the same thing—I am actually preparing you to practice a skill that’s crucial to solid, long-term trauma resolution! In other words, if taking steps to name and reclaim your own healing sounds like “the direction you want to be tomorrow,” joining my group, Top Ten Betrayal Trauma Topics is a pretty safe stride in that direction—seeing as you’ll actually start making progress before our first group session even gets started.
My Personal Experience With Betrayal Trauma & Abuse Recovery
So, you ready for one of those personal anecdotes I promised, the one about my own biggest challenge in early recovery?
Now that I think about it, I’m actually kind of embarrassed to say this out loud, after that whole monologue about self-empowerment and self-advocacy!
Because when it comes right down to it, the place where I got myself almost irreversibly stuck—was on that very question:
“What… do I… need?”
Sounds pretty simple and straightforward… right? I mean, by that point in my life, I’d been married, divorced and remarried. I spent two blissful years in art school, resulting in a career I absolutely loved—one that took me halfway around the world to work in a country most people only dream of even visiting. I’d even made a few really major life decisions, like choosing to move far, far away from my loved ones, and “making peace” with the fact that I’d never have children. Sure, life had thrown me a few difficult curve balls—but heck if I didn’t swing my bat and knock those curve balls out of the park.
From the outside looking in, I wasn’t the girl who had any problems figuring out what she wanted, what she needed, or how to get there.
And for a number of years, my insides matched those outsides. I was a pretty authentic human being, and I prided myself on being exceptionally self-aware, spiritually mature and nothing if not adaptable.
What Does Mental Health Look Like When Faced With My Husband’s Cheating & Abuse?
In fact? In reality? I’d become far too “adaptable” for my own good.
I had adapted myself to life with a man whose preferred sexual relationship seemed to be with… porn.
I had adapted myself to life with a man whose rallying cry was, “I know need to do better”—but somehow, never quite translated that knowledge into action.
I had adapted myself to life with man I loved, a man whose own needs were emotionally all consuming. I knew that I knew that I knew that he needed me—but along the way I truly forgot that I had needs too.
I forgot that I COULD have needs.
I forgot that I SHOULD have needs.
And I forgot that my needs mattered.
I forgot that my needs weren’t a currency to be begged, borrowed or traded for safety under the emotionally abusive tyranny of my husband’s porn addiction.
Ultimately, I forgot the girl whose needs I could no longer remember.
If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, to the point that I know my experience with it isn’t unique. So with that little disclaimer, and at the risk of sounding painfully cliche, I’ll bottom line this for you:
I’d become someone I no longer recognized.
For whatever it’s worth, I care too much about all of you to sugarcoat this next part—so I’m gonna give it to you with as much brutal honestly as I can possibly stomach:
Climbing my way back to that girl who had needs, required me to do something that was utterly and paradoxically intolerable:
In order to resurrect and reconnect with my needs, I had to be willing to let myself be needy.
Having Needs Is OKAY!
Now I don’t know about all of you, but as a young, single, modern American woman? I believed that being NEEDY was about as appealing as having leprosy.
Needy wasn’t cute.
Needy wasn’t fun.
Needy didn’t get you a great guy, or an award, or a promotion.
In other words, needy didn’t make my list of desirable character qualities.
So when it came time for me to be needy, all in an effort to identify WHAT I needed (that was actually the easier part) followed by figuring out HOW to meet those needs once I knew what they were?
THAT was a lesson I couldn’t learn without the wisdom, experience and strength of other women—other women who, incidentally, had already been there, done that and lived to tell about it.
If you’re someone like me, a woman who’s forgotten what your needs are, or you blanche at the idea of trying to ask for what you need, feel like your needs are important, or believe that your needs are worth fighting for? In fact, if you, like me, have forgotten the girl you once were—or, you want to reconnect with the girl you are apart from this whole sordid sexual betrayal mess? I’d specifically invite you to consider joining doing individual sessions with me on the topic of Who Am I Beyond Betrayal Trauma?
When I began recovering from the pain and trauma of my husband’s porn addiction, suffice it to say I was stressed to the max. I didn’t have children like so many of you do, but I was working full time in a deadline-driven industry, commuting 3-5 hours daily, acting like a blissfully happy, successful, newlywed Superwoman to the world around me—all the while feeling like a battered woman within the private world of my own soul.
When I joined my first support group—let’s just say, it’s not exaggerating to say that group saved my life. Every single Wednesday night, when I turned my key in the ignition of my car, to drive toward that meeting, something intense inside of me kicked in… and I started bawling. Like, I’m not talking about a few delicate tears rolling down my face—I’m talking about the stuffy, sticky, smearing, throbbing kinds of tears—the ones I’d been holding hostage inside my body all week long, suppressed to the degree that simply turning that car key signaled my desperate opportunity to finally let it out for awhile: It was like my body and soul knew that, as I drove to this meeting and spent one hour each week talking with other women who understood and CARED about me? For that ONE hour I didn’t need to be Superwoman, or Wonder Woman, or Proverbs 31 woman—for that one hour, I could be a sobbing, suffocating girl on the floor… one who was learning, one hour at a time, how to pick myself up and start breathing again.
So, why am I telling you this story? Because, when I coach women healing from the trauma of loving someone with a porn addiction, sex addiction, or related forms of abusive and compulsive behavior? Encouraging women like us to join a group is one of the most critical appeals I find myself making. It’s a step toward strength and support for which there really is no substitute—without some circle of empathy and empowerment around us? Healing at its deepest, truest and most practical? It doesn’t ever happen. Women who try to “tough it out” or “suck it up” through wave after wave of betrayal trauma? Those are the women who continue to break down inside—unseen, unheard and unhealed—suffering alone, despite their loneliness.
As a woman in recovery, those are the stories that most break my heart. And as a woman who coaches others women through sexual betrayal trauma? Those are the stories that remind me why I fight so hard to break down barriers that prevent women in trauma from getting support.
Now, here’s an important factor to highlight. When I say that, eleven years ago, my weekly group saved my life, it’s important to note a really smart and intentional decision I made about that group, one that could have been a make-or-break factor in my ability to maintain the supportive connections my healing would require:
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Support Groups Can Safe Your Life
When I chose that group, I chose a group that was literally one mile away from my front door. In other words, I chose an option for support that was nearly as convenient as humanly possible—and I made a commitment to be there, no matter what, every. single. Wednesday. night. Unless I was out of town or on my deathbed, every Wednesday night at 7 o’clock, I turned that key in my ignition, let the tears flood in, and drove that one mile to my support group—where I walked in the door to be met by a circle of women who still hold me together, on days when facing a world filled with sexual betrayal gets overwhelming, even for me.
Fair warning, here: when I say what I’m about to say next, it has the potential to sound somewhat lazy, dismissive or self-indulgent. So just trust me when I say, I needed this permission in early recovery, and I’m thrilled to extend it to any one of you who might happen to need it, just as much as I did.
It’s okay to choose a support group that’s easy.
Sure, there are times when healing and recovery require us to summon some inner tough love.
But honestly, at the beginning? I needed something something that was so convenient, accessible and straightforward, (a) I didn’t need to figure anything out and (b) didn’t have any built-in excuses to discourage me from getting started.
Eleven years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook—so a support group one mile away from my house was about as good as it got. But here we are, a decade-plus later, and where do I find myself? I now do a huge portion of my coaching support for women via Facebook—in very private, safe and facilitated spaces that offer more convenience than I ever dreamed of in early recovery! Through these groups, I like to believe I’m giving my clients that permission to “choose a support group that’s easy.” With zero expectations for you to show up on a specific day, or time of day? No need to brush your hair, brush your teeth, or climb out of your PJs?
Well, betrayal trauma healing doesn’t get more convenient than that.
So as I say goodbye today, I’m wondering: Did I made good on my promises to you? Has this podcast inspired your enthusiasm for your own healing? Has it helped you figure out what kind of group support, if any, you may need to deepen your own recovery from sexual betrayal trauma? And have you gotten at least one or two helpful nuggets, reflections from my own meandering world of early recovery comings and goings?