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Coping Skills for Abuse

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you or a loved one has been abused, you do not need to feel hopeless. This lesson gives you some important ideas for how to cope with the trauma that can occur as a result of abuse.

Why Coping Skills Matter

Being abused is not something that can ever be taken lightly, and there are aspects of abuse that can be incredibly difficult to recover from. If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship or situation, you probably need help that goes beyond what this lesson can provide, and you should contact a law enforcement official or mental health professional. However, there are some things you can do alone or with a loving community to help cope with the consequences of abuse. We can think of these things as coping skills. Coping skills do not necessarily solve the problems of abuse, but they can make it possible for victims of abuse to get on with life and find value in what their lives have to offer.

This lesson offers you some ideas to help cope with abuse and develop skills that will help avoid repetition of abusive situations. Many of these skills can take time to learn, and no one skill offers a magical solution. Read through the lesson with an eye toward what skills sound most realistic and meaningful to you or the person you are helping.

Self-Esteem

The skills in this section have to do with developing self-esteem. Victims of abuse often feel very badly about themselves, and these skills can help rebuild confidence and trust in oneself.

Make, Make, Make

Creative processes can go a long way toward helping the abuse survivor strengthen self-esteem. Find an art form that feels meaningful to you, like sculpture, collage, woodworking, or painting, and spend a little time on it every day. Making art can be therapeutic and good for stress release, but it also helps give you a sense of yourself as someone with agency and power.

Thought-Stopping

Many abuse survivors get caught in spirals of negative thinking, like 'If only I were prettier, better, smarter, etc., this would not have happened to me.' Come up with a code phrase as simple as 'Chocolate ice cream!', 'I'm fantastic!', or 'Stop now!' Every time you catch the negative spiral beginning, say the code phrase as loudly as you can - whether speaking it aloud or saying it loudly inside your mind. Repeat it until the negative thoughts have stopped, and you have redirected your thinking in a more productive direction.

People Who Love You

Teach yourself to confidently list people who love and care for you. Make this list without doubt or hesitation. When you find yourself feeling badly about yourself, your relationships or your experience, stop what you are doing and visualize each of these people. Try to recreate the feelings their love helps you build inside yourself.

External Skills

Sometimes, abuse survivors also struggle in presenting themselves confidently to others and to the world around them. These strategies will help you function better in the world in spite of traumas you have faced.

Dress For Success

It might sound silly, but sometimes, feeling comfortable in your body can make all the difference in how you act in the world. Dressing for success does not mean conforming to someone else's beauty standards. It means finding the clothes and styles that make you feel comfortable, assertive, and strong. Dressing for success can be especially helpful if you have to do something that feels daunting, like a job interview, a doctor's appointment, or a meeting at your child's school.

Bring a Buddy

Abuse survivors often feel very alone in the world, and they might recreate this feeling by refusing offers of help. Yet having a supportive friend or family member along during difficult situations can make a huge difference. Next time you feel tempted to decline company, think twice. If you are offering support to a friend and they say no, give them multiple chances to rethink. Bringing a buddy along can be helpful not only with major events but even with seemingly simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store.

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