An article by Daniela Bishop

The therapeutic process as a tool for self-reconstruction

Maud Jeulin, psychologist at the Namur branch back then, involves in her work facilitating dialogue, focusing on desire, and reinventing relationships with others. During therapeutic exchanges, women facing female genital mutilation (FGM) and/or forced marriages release what holds them back from moving forward. Through this article, Maud aims to highlight the therapeutic process associated with reclaiming one’s own life.

From survival to life

The individual seeking psychological consultation has made the fundamental decision to move from survival to life. The goal of the therapeutic process is to transition from a state where one is deprived of their voice to a situation where they are in control.

I observe in my patients that the ‘self’ is not in control. There is another within each person, a shadow that influences every aspect of life, demanding to be heard,” explains Maud.

In therapy, the individual is met in their vulnerability, in what holds them captive and persecuted, to begin the journey of healing. The role of the therapist is to listen to the subjective truth of the individual, allowing them a process of transformation.

Liberating speech

In therapeutic support, subjective speech is to be understood as that which opens up a process of liberation. While ordinary conversation uses words in a regulated and ordered manner, the person in therapy is encouraged to speak, to express themselves in their own words, not those of others. This is about speaking one’s truth, away from communal expectations.

Speech in therapy is exploratory, seeking clarification. It is what drives progress.

Bringing desire out of the shadows

The second therapeutic axis is to guide the individual in what they will do with their desire. However, desire is sometimes unconscious, and the individual may feel deeply alienated.

The women I meet in therapy have lost faith in their desire. There is a fundamental fear of living that has gradually taken hold due to the persecutions they have endured. This fear takes on multiple forms: withdrawal, avoidance, anxiety, phobias, depression, reliving traumatic memories, confusion, nocturnal terrors…

Therapy aims to rediscover this buried desire and reclaim it, away from life scenarios that do not belong to them.

Reinventing relationships with others

Therapeutic work examines early relationships in childhood: figures of identification but also persecutory figures, the images the individual has of themselves and others.

“The therapeutic process aims, ultimately, to unravel suffocating knots and shed light on what underlies the suffering. One might think, for example, of FGM and forced marriage as a means of exerting power over the victim. Fleeing into exile to save this remaining part of oneself does not happen without conflicts of loyalty, or losses and separations from loved ones.”

The ultimate goal of therapy is to accompany the individual in all that they must leave behind: to escape cruelty and sadness and embrace life.

Healing means breaking free from the stifling framework to take control of one’s life. It is freeing oneself from all dependencies, including that with the psychologist,” concludes Maud.