Scam Victim Resistance In Support Groups Therapy Or Counseling Can Destroy Opportunities For Recovery

Helping Scam Victims Better Understand one of the Self-Created Barriers to their Recovery

Author:
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

This article examines the complicated topic of resistance in scam victims within or to therapy and support groups, exploring its challenges and consequences. It emphasizes the difficulty of discussing resistance due to its association with judgment and criticism.

Victims may resist addressing their trauma, fearing shame, judgment, or loss of control. However, understanding and overcoming resistance are crucial for healing and recovery. We distinguish between support groups and therapy, highlighting their respective focuses and structures. It warns against viewing support groups solely as social gatherings, as this may hinder healing.

Addressing resistance requires patience, trust-building, validation, and an exploration of underlying fears. The article also discusses the withdrawal of consent as a consequence of resistance.

Overall, it underscores the importance of overcoming resistance to unlock the transformative potential of therapy and support groups for scam victims.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

Understanding Scam Victim Resistance in Therapy and Support Groups: Overcoming Barriers to Healing

Resistance is an Extremely Difficult Topic

Resistance is an extremely difficult topic to explore and discuss for both the scam victims and the support provider since it sounds so much like judgment and criticizing scam victims. Yet, it is a common barrier to helping scam victims to recover from scams, fraud, and cybercrime when they have been traumatized by them. Without understanding resistance and being able to overcome it, recovery stalls and may never be complete.

We are going to talk about resistance in a clinical way and we hope that this does not offend, but if you feel offended by the topic then it very likely applies to you. The process of recovery often requires discussing difficult topics.

For a scam victim to be able to recover it is necessary to confront all aspects of the crime, their personality, their vulnerabilities, past and present life challenges, the impact that the crime had on them, and barriers that they may be throwing in the way of their recovery. We do this not to diagnose anyone or provide therapy but to clearly state the need for openness and transparency both with yourself and with the support group or therapy that you selected. Secrets will only fester and block recovery.

We hope that you and all recovering victims can see that.

Secrets and artificial privacy are barriers to your success.

Before we go into the topic of resistance, let us first explore resistance to talking about resistance.

The Difference Between Support And Therapy

The fundamental difference between a support group and therapy lies in their primary focus, structure, and goals. But there is also another aspect that must be understood

Support Groups are Not for Socializing, they are there for Healing

Often victims tend to look at support groups as social groups,  Though scam victims can certainly socialize and make friends in them, that is not really their intended purpose.

Viewing a support group primarily as a social group can be detrimental to victims for several reasons:

  • Misalignment of Expectations: Support groups and social groups serve different purposes. Social groups focus on socializing, leisure activities, and building connections, while support groups emphasize sharing experiences, seeking guidance, and receiving emotional support related to specific challenges or issues. If victims perceive a support group as primarily a social gathering, they may feel disappointed or frustrated by the lack of social interaction or recreational activities, leading to disengagement or withdrawal.
  • Minimization of Problems: Treating a support group as a social setting may trivialize the severity or significance of the issues discussed. Victims may downplay their experiences or avoid discussing distressing topics in favor of maintaining a lighthearted atmosphere conducive to socializing. This can hinder the therapeutic benefits of sharing experiences, processing emotions, and receiving validation and support from others who understand their struggles.
  • Inadequate Support: Victims who view a support group as merely a social outlet may overlook opportunities to receive meaningful support and guidance from peers who have similar experiences, or the coaches, guides, or facilitators who are there to help guide them and educate them. Instead of addressing their emotional needs, seeking advice, or exploring coping strategies, individuals may prioritize superficial interactions or avoid discussing sensitive topics altogether. As a result, they may miss out on valuable opportunities for healing, growth, and connection within the group.
  • Masking Vulnerability: Perceiving a support group as a social gathering may lead victims to mask or suppress their vulnerabilities, fears, or emotional pain to maintain a positive image or fit in with others. This can create a facade of well-being or resilience that prevents individuals from authentically engaging with their experiences and seeking the support they genuinely need. Without acknowledging and addressing their emotional struggles openly, victims may struggle to make progress in their recovery journey. Social groups are full of little white lies but a real support group is about the cold hard truth.

While social interaction and camaraderie are essential aspects of support groups, it’s crucial for scam victims to recognize and respect the primary purpose of the support groups as platforms for sharing, support, and healing. By approaching support groups with an open mind, willingness to engage authentically and completely, and readiness to address their emotional needs, victims can derive maximum benefit from the supportive environment and resources available to them.

The key element to remember is that effective support groups are a service provided for them.

Key Differences Between Support Groups and Therapy

  1. Focus:
    • Support Group: Support groups typically focus on providing emotional support, validation, education, guidance or coaching, and encouragement to individuals facing similar challenges or experiences. Members share their stories, offer empathy, learn, and provide practical advice based on their own experiences. In support groups provided by expert organizations, there can also be significant educational support as well.
    • Therapy: Therapy, on the other hand, involves a professional therapist guiding individuals through a structured process of self-exploration, insight-building, and problem-solving to address specific psychological issues that the victim may have. The focus is on addressing specific psychological issues, symptoms, or goals through evidence-based interventions.
  2. Structure:
    • Support Group: Support groups are often informal gatherings facilitated by peers or volunteers or experts who share a common experience or interest, though they can also be facilitated by subject matter experts whose goal is also to educate the group members. Meetings may follow an open asynchronous format where members take turns sharing or discussing topics relevant to the group’s theme. In the case of SCARS Support & Recovery Groups, this is a combination of online participation and zoom meetings for face-to-face sharing.
    • Therapy: Therapy sessions are typically structured and guided by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Sessions are usually one-on-one and follow a specific therapeutic approach or framework tailored to the individual’s needs and treatment goals.
  3. Goals:
    • Support Group: The primary goal of support groups is to provide mutual support, validation, education, and a sense of belonging to participants. Members benefit from sharing their experiences, receiving empathy, and learning coping strategies and other knowledge, while supporting others facing similar challenges.
    • Therapy: Therapy aims to address specific psychological concerns, symptoms, or life challenges through therapeutic interventions designed to promote healing, personal growth, and symptom reduction. The therapist works collaboratively with the individual to identify goals, explore underlying issues, and develop coping skills.
  4. Professional Involvement:
    • Support Group: Support groups are often peer-led, though also expert-led, and may not involve professional oversight or facilitation. While some support groups may have a mental health professional present as a resource, the focus is on peer support, learning, and shared experiences. Support groups can be provided by experts with trauma-informed training or other relevant training as well.
    • Therapy: Therapy involves a trained mental health professional who provides expert guidance, assessment, and intervention based on their clinical training and expertise. Therapists may employ various therapeutic modalities, techniques, and interventions tailored to the individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

While both support groups and therapy offer valuable forms of assistance and support, they differ in their focus, structure, goals, and level of professional involvement. Support groups provide support, validation, education, and often coaching and guidance, while therapy offers structured intervention and guidance from a trained mental health professional.

So the Big Question: Are You Resisting talking about Resistance?

Scam victims may be resistant to talk about resistance for several reasons, rooted in the complex intermingling of emotions, beliefs, and experiences associated with their victimization are a common set of reasons why the topic is difficult to discuss or accept.

  • Shame and Embarrassment: Scam victims feel ashamed or embarrassed about falling for a scam, particularly if they perceive themselves as having been naive or gullible. Admitting to resistance may further compound these feelings, as it can imply vulnerability or weakness. This, if these feelings have never really been put to bed, they resurface in the form of resistance/
  • Fear of Judgment: Scam Victims may fear being judged or criticized by others for their actions or perceived mistakes. Discussing resistance may require them to confront feelings of guilt or self-blame, making them reluctant to open up about their experiences. Again, if they have not been put down, and there remain residual guilt or blame, resistance is one common way it resurfaces.
  • Loss of Control: Scam victims experienced a profound sense of loss of control over their lives, finances, or emotions as a result of the scam. Admitting to resistance may highlight their perceived lack of agency in the situation, leading to feelings of powerlessness or vulnerability. But then this reverts back to a form of denial.
  • Trauma and Emotional Distress: Scam victimization can have profound psychological effects, including deep trauma, grief, anxiety, and depression. Talking about resistance may evoke painful emotions or memories associated with the scam, triggering feelings of distress or discomfort. This is actually ok. Feeling overwhelmed is not always a bad thing, and there is time to discuss these issues as long as it is just taking time and feeling more comfortable. Most aspects of recovery can be overwhelming and sometimes cause reactions, but here it becomes a problem is continued rigid resistance – meaning the same response over and over.
  • Trust Issues: Scam victims may struggle with trust issues following their victimization, making it difficult for them to open up about their experiences or seek support from others. Discussing resistance may require them to trust their therapist, counselor, or support group members, which can be challenging given their past betrayal of trust. However, after an extended period of time in a support or therapeutic setting these trust issues should have gone away.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: Victims may experience cognitive dissonance, where their beliefs or self-perceptions are at odds with their actions or experiences. Admitting to resistance may force them to confront inconsistencies in their thinking or behavior, leading to feelings of cognitive discomfort. Ironically, this is most common for recent victims of these crimes, but they can pop up again at the two crisis points of early-recovery (around 6 months) and mid-recovery (around 18 months.)

Addressing resistance in scam victims requires sensitivity, empathy, and a non-judgmental approach. Creating a safe and supportive environment where victims feel validated and understood can help facilitate discussions about resistance and promote healing and recovery. However, having said that, every scam victim turned survivor needs to understand that the recovery process is difficult, and being able to accept the hard with the easy is essential for forward movement.

Why Resistance Surfaces

In each scam victim’s journey toward healing and personal growth, seeking support from therapy, counseling, or support groups is absolutely necessary and immensely beneficial. However, sometimes individuals may find themselves facing their own resistance – a natural but often challenging hurdle in the process. So, what exactly is resistance, how does it show up, and what are its consequences?

What is Resistance?

Resistance can be likened to a protective shield that individuals unconsciously put up when faced with uncomfortable emotions, difficult truths, or the prospect of change. It’s a defense mechanism aimed at preserving the status quo and avoiding the discomfort that comes with confronting deeply ingrained patterns or painful experiences.

How Does Resistance Manifest?

Resistance can manifest in various ways, and its appearance may vary from person to person. Some common forms of resistance include denial, avoidance, defensiveness, rationalization, minimization, procrastination, and silence.

  • Denial: This involves downplaying or outright denying the severity of one’s issues, minimizing their impact, or avoiding acknowledgment altogether.
  • Avoidance: Individuals may steer conversations away from sensitive topics or emotions, choosing to ignore or bypass uncomfortable discussions.
  • Defensiveness: When faced with feedback or suggestions for change, individuals may become defensive, justifying their actions or blaming external factors.
  • Rationalization: People may provide seemingly logical explanations to justify maintaining the status quo, rationalizing their behaviors or choices.
  • Minimization: Things are not as others see them, everything is just fine, or as fine as it can be.
  • Procrastination: Resistance may also manifest as procrastination or a lack of follow-through on recommended actions or homework assignments, such as missing meetings, calls, appointments, not reading the educational materials, etc.
  • Silence: Some individuals may withdraw or become silent during sessions, refusing to engage in discussions or share their thoughts and feelings.

Consequences of Resistance

The consequences of resistance to receiving support can be profound and far-reaching:

  • Stagnation: Resistance can hinder progress and growth, preventing individuals from addressing underlying issues and making positive changes in their lives.
  • Continued Suffering: By resisting support, individuals may prolong their suffering, remaining trapped in cycles of distress or dysfunction.
  • Strained Relationships: Resistance may strain relationships with therapists, counselors, or support group members or organizers, hindering the development of trust and rapport.
  • Missed Opportunities: Resisting support can result in missed opportunities for learning, healing, and personal development, limiting the potential for positive outcomes.
  • Escalation of Problems: Ignoring or denying problems can lead to their escalation over time, potentially exacerbating mental health issues or interpersonal conflicts.
  • Feelings of Isolation: Persistent resistance may contribute to feelings of isolation and alienation, as individuals may perceive themselves as misunderstood or unsupported.

Overcoming Resistance

Overcoming resistance requires patience, compassion, persistence, commitment, and understanding from both the individual and their support network. Therapists, counselors, and support group facilitators play a crucial role in helping individuals overcome resistance and move toward healing.

  • Building Trust: Establishing a trusting relationship is essential for addressing resistance. Therapists and facilitators can create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable exploring difficult emotions and experiences.
  • Validation: Validating clients’ experiences and emotions helps them feel heard and understood. Acknowledging the validity of their concerns fosters a sense of trust and encourages openness.
  • Exploration: Exploring the underlying fears or concerns driving resistance can shed light on its roots and pave the way for meaningful progress. Encouraging self-reflection and introspection allows individuals to gain insight into their thoughts and behaviors.
  • Psychoeducation: Providing information about the nature of resistance helps individuals understand why it arises and how it can be addressed. Psychoeducation empowers clients to recognize and challenge resistance in a constructive manner.
  • Alternative Perspectives: Offering alternative perspectives can help individuals shift their mindset and approach challenges from a different angle. Encouraging flexibility in thinking promotes openness to new ideas and possibilities.

One possible outcome from resistance is the withdrawal of consent, meaning that a victim or individual says they no longer trust the support group or therapist, or something more explicit. When this occurs the individual has in effect terminated the service provider. At this point, some providers may attempt to explore the deeper meaning in this and ignore the statements for what they are, however, ethically, when someone expresses doubt about the support relationship the support provider should accept that and immediately terminate the support being provided.

Summary

Resistance is a natural part of the therapeutic journey, but it cannot be allowed to be a roadblock to healing. By recognizing the signs of resistance, understanding its underlying causes, and employing effective strategies to address it, individuals can overcome barriers and embark on a path toward growth, resilience, and emotional well-being. With patience, support, and a willingness to explore, individuals can navigate resistance and embrace the transformative power of therapy and support groups.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

If you are looking for local trauma counselors please visit counseling.AgainstScams.org or join SCARS for our counseling/therapy benefit: membership.AgainstScams.org

If you need to speak with someone now, you can dial 988 or find phone numbers for crisis hotlines all around the world here: www.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at www.ScamPsychology.org

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

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