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Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy Paperback – March 17, 1996
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Top Customer Reviews
"As documented here both by statistics and by the survivors' own voices, incest is unfortunately not a rare aberrant happening but a common childhood experience of a substantial minority of all children. Since incest is generally hidden and denied, the victims are left to cope with their reactions in an atmosphere that contradicts the reality of their experience.
"All incest is not the same. In the first section, Christine A. Courtois provides a general introduction to incest by category, type, characteristics, and family and individual dynamics. Such knowledge is essential for therapists hoping to understand the unique aspects of their clients' incest experiences.
"The symptoms, short-term aftereffects, and long-term secondary elaborations of incest are next examined from four perspectives: traumatic stress or victimization theory, developmental theory, feminist theory, and loss theory. Courtois's sensitive discussion of the diagnostic process shows how multiple presenting concerns may alert the clinician to incest in the client's past.
"The final section describes the salient issues and strategies of incest therapy, which may involve a combination of individual, group, couples, or family therapy. Here, as elsewhere in the book, case vignettes illustrate the therapeutic process."
It explains how and why incest occurs. It describes how the child perceives the event, the personality of an abuser, and the dynamics of abuse and the incestuous family. It talks about the aftereffects, diagnosis (PTSD) and treatment. We often have traumatic reenactment as we become sexual in outside relationships. We are either disconnected sexually from our bodies or we act out sexually with multiple, often random partners.
Being sexual or doing things for others was the only way I felt I was of any value to anyone else. Why else would they love me if I didn't service them? How else was I of any intrinsic value? I felt power, love and acceptance when I sexually pleased a man. This became my goal in relationships and was how I attracted men. I have confused love, guilt and sex and seen myself as a sexual object.
We must have the understanding of the child's reality, understand that it confounds and contradicts adult logic. Incest abuse is a process with five stages. The child usually learns to accept and accommodate and basic trust is violated. This causes fundamental trust issues for the victim for the rest of his/her life. The family is often enmeshed with lack of appropriate boundaries and role reversals where the child often becomes the significant other to the abuser.
To understand why children blame themselves look only at the child's perception of reality and their defense systems. To a young child, adults, especially parents, are the embodiment of all wisdom and goodness.Read more ›
E. Kelly, L.M.F.T.
Courtois likens the victim's symptomology to acute post-traumatic stress disorder in both diagnosis and treatment. She compares and contrasts incest with rape, outlining what she believes to be the causes of the former: "child pornography and the sexualization of children; the sexual revolution; the backlash against sexual equality; untreated child sexual abuse; and the increase in cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, with its resultant increase in blended families" (p. 17). With the exception of the backlash (I believe it is the male's reaction formation to feelings of impotence, many times, though not exclusively, caused by the feminist revolution), I heartily agree.
Courtois examines abuse from the child's perspective, as well as uses the psychodynamic, sociological, family systems, and feminist models. She is not simplistic like others with her conclusions, but probes in depth many alternative explanations and treatments. She grounds her therapeutic solutions in available theory from the fields of feminism, traumatic stress/victimization, self development, and loss.
Though she leaves out the spiritual aspect of treatment, there is no better book about therapy of incestuous families. Courtois devotes half of her book to this topic, including an excellent Incest History Questionnaire designed to assist clients in describing their experience.