Joel and Robin Turgesen
“We work with couples as a team by providing individual support to each partner and then bringing them together for couples support. After some time of individual sessions, all four of us will come together for joint sessions. We think of a relationship as a bridge, with the two individuals being the two foundations that each come up out of their own individual life with all of their strengths, weaknesses and influences of how things are done in their world. Then, meeting each other in the middle, the couple can form a structure strong enough to connect and accomplish things together.”
Information for Survivors of Sexual Violence
About Joel and Robin Turgesen
We specialize in trauma resolution, recovery from addictions and offer conflict resolution couples work in our private practice. Joel has been a psychotherapist (MA, LPC) since 1974 and Robin has been a Behavioral Health clinician (RN, BC) also since 1974.
Over these years of working with people, while the presenting problems may vary from depression, anxiety, addictions, or relationship dysfunction, we have come to see that the underlying problem is nearly always earlier unresolved trauma. Quite frequently, in the case of female clients, this means sexual abuse. That said, quite often, although not as prevalently, our male clients also report a history of sexual abuse. Joel specializes in working with men, both partners of survivors and survivors themselves.
Our Interest in Working with Survivors
Given the very high statistics of sexual violence, this is indeed a situation that affects us all. Unresolved trauma blocks a person’s capacity to enjoy life, to engage in healthy relationships, to break free of addictions and to contribute to the evolution of a more sane civilization. We teach our clients the tools that will help heal their past and free them up for an increasingly creative future.
We work with couples as a team by providing individual support to each partner and then bringing them together for couples support. After some time of individual sessions, all four of us will come together for joint sessions. We think of a relationship as a bridge, with the two individuals being the two foundations that each come up out of their own individual life with all of their strengths, weaknesses and influences of how things are done in their world. Then, meeting each other in the middle, the couple can form a structure strong enough to connect and accomplish things together.
When things break down in the middle, great stress is put on the foundation. The core strengths of the two individuals are put to the test and weaknesses are exposed that can reveal where things need to be shored up. The core negative fear-based beliefs are often the products of trauma. These deep wounds need to be addressed and healed and then the individuals can deal with and transform the problems in the relationship together. Ultimately, the inability to connect at the middle can then be resolved through the practice of the relationship.
We have found that EMDR and CBT are effective therapeutic tools for accomplishing this healing work. We encourage people to access other support, to practice yoga, meditate, exercise, work with a 12 step program, read inspirational books, monitor their nutritional needs, and other ways of practicing self care, so that they are engaged daily in their transformational work in a well rounded variety of ways that address their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness.
Before coming in for counseling, most couples have struggled for many frustrating and confusing years with the blocks to intimacy that sexual abuse has caused. Most often, the partner who has been abused feels triggered by sexual advances, which the other partner may take personally as rejection. Feeling rejected, this partner’s frustration tragically, quite often results in more woundedness – as does the survivor’s defensive reaction back against them.
A very large part of Joel’s work with men, or the partner who has not experienced abuse, is educating them about the realities of their survivor partner’s healing process and helping them process their frustration with the complexities that arise into patience, understanding and compassion.
How Counseling Can Holistically Address the Impacts of Sexual Violence
Survival mechanisms such as dissociation can be turned into assets. They originate as a means of self-protection. That experience of protection and safety can be leveraged and developed to create a safe place of reprieve and restoration. In fact, whatever one’s reaction to trauma – addiction, fixation, or attachment disorders, these can be seen as symbolic of the real experience one is seeking. It is more important to focus on what the client is seeking (protection, safety, peace of mind, etc.) than the means they’ve been using (alcohol, sex, food, lovers, dissociation) which at first gave them a semblance of the desired state but now have become too dysfunctional or even destructive.
Ultimately, it is most important to focus on the fact that the individuals or couple are seeking, that they have a desire to feel better. So, we move from what we have been looking to into the feeling state they are looking for – and then to the very experience of desire itself, for that is where the answer lies. Contemplation is the empowering action.