A Proactive "LIfe Book" Technique for
by Vijai P. Sharma, PhD.
MY BOOK—THERAPIST SECTIONDisclaimer
About the Authors and the Book
Tips on How to Use the Child Section of My Book.
Goals For Child Abuse Trauma Recovery...............
Suggestions for Activities for Children ...................
Tips on how to Use the Child Section of the book
The Drinking Troubles (Module 1).........................
The Courtroom (Module 2) ....................................
Lies And Lies In The Courtroom.......................
The Day After Court .........................................
Going To Foster Parents (Module 3) ......................
Going To Another Foster Family (Module 4)..........
MY BOOK—MALE CHILD(not included)
Why Have A Very Special Book Of Your Own..........................
Birth Of A Very Special Person (Part 1)......................................
Homecoming (Part II).................................................................
Touching Troubles (Part III).......................................................
Taking Good Care Of A Child Is The Parents' Job (Part IV). .....
Some Parents Can Choose The Wrong Thing (Part V)................
Doing The Brave Thing—Telling At Home (Part VI)...................
Doing The Brave Thing — Telling Outside The Home (Part VII).
Back To Being A Terrific Child Again .......................................
In the Works
My Book—Female Child Section
When Father Moves Out Of The House (for boys and girls)
About The Authors and The Book
Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D is a psychologist and author. During his 30-year career as a practicing psychologist, he has helped thousands of clients including children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. He has written over two hundred articles and books on personal psychological and relationship problems. He writes a weekly newspaper column "Understanding Emotions," for people who are interested in self-help, personal development, and self-initiated growth.
His book, "Insane Jealousy," has gained national recognition. His most recent books, "People Fear" and "Anger Kills Relationships" deal with the most troubling aspects of couple relationships. Dr. Sharma received training in child development and therapy from pioneering child experts, notably, Anna Freud and John Bowlby. He also received informal coaching from Dr. D.W. Winnicott and Erick Erickson.
Jan Hindman, M.S. LPC has been a pioneer in the field of sexual abuse for the past 24 years. She has conducted extensive research in the trauma suffered by victims and their families, and has implemented a variety of creative effective treatment techniques for victims, families, and perpetrators. Her contribution to the field of child abuse trauma is outstanding. She has done pioneering work in developing the sensory-based treatment for victims of abuse trauma. Ms. Hindman has published numerous books and articles, most notably, "A Very Touching Book", "Step-By-Step: Sixteen Steps Toward Legally Sound Sexual Abuse Investigations"; "Just Before Dawn" and "The Mourning Breaks."
Ms. Hindman is certified as a Sex Educator and Trainer by AASECT and is an Adjunct Professor at seven colleges and universities in the Northwest. She is currently in private practice at the "It's About Childhood Foundation" in Oregon, providing assessment and treatment to sexual offenders, victims, and their families. She also runs a prison based treatment program for adult offenders. Jan conducts training workshops in abuse trauma assessment and treatment at various sites across the nation.
"My Book: A Proactive Life Book Technique" came out of the "Harry Story," written by Jan Hindman for a ten year old sexual abuse victim in treatment. "Harry" was truly traumatized. He was abused by his mother and father, invalidated by court trial, abandoned, and shifted from one foster home to another. Jan wrote the story, as she does for all her patients, so Harry could accept his innocence and understand how parental behavior led to many of his problem behaviors. Dr. Sharma developed this workbook so it could be used by therapists for other children, like Harry, who have been abused.
Consistent with the sensory-based treatment philosophy, the workbook, through the story, weaves in the four cardinal principles of recovery: RULES, ROBBERY, RESCUE, and REMEMBER. Through use of the story, suggested activities and questions, a child victim learns the following: the rules of parent-child relationships that were broken by parent(s); how the child was robbed of the right to grow up sexually safe and secure; how the child was rescued by certain people and interventions; and things the child should remember correctly regarding his or her goodness and innocence, on one hand, and responsibilities and obligations that were not discharged by the adults, on the other. By using this process with victimized children now, we may protect them from adult trauma in the future.
The idea of writing the child's life story is not new. It began with child protection social workers who long ago recognized that for adopted children "memory of their family origin left to chance," could produce disastrous results. Many children, when they become older, created their own memory about why they were abused and/or abandoned. Since these "processed and created memories" are often inaccurate and distorted, they can have disastrous outcomes for victims of childhood trauma. Take for example, "John," a young man who was placed in an adoptive home when he was five. As a teenager, he became abusive to himself and through extensive chemical dependency, he is now facing a lengthy prison sentence. When his Sexual Victim Trauma Assessment was completed, I looked at his "life book," created long ago by well intentioned social workers and it appeared that he came from the "Brady Bunch" family. Although the book was positive about the child, it did not make it clear how abusive the parents were to all of the children. John is even more traumatized because in his processed memory of his family and his childhood, there is nothing that explains why he should feel self-abusive.
When I wrote the "Harry story," it was an example of many of the stories that I have prepared for victims, hoping that through this process they could see themselves as innocent (which is similar to the life book theory) but that they could also see that their parents were inappropriate and abusive. When you read the Harry story, you see that "Harry" is innocent but you also see the abusive family situation from which he needed escape and rescue. In other words, our task as a therapist is not only to capture the child's innocence, but true to sensory-based treatment philosophy, it is to also capture the inappropriate behavior of the parents.
Critical to recovery for a child abuse victim is the recreation of a correct memory-one that captures the child's innocence, and protects future trauma for the adult. It was in the distorted memory—the moving memory over time that feelings of guilt and shame emerged, setting the stage for a variety of destructive coping mechanisms for adult victims of childhood abuse. It is in the memory, distorted or clear, where the trauma lies.
"Why did I rape my mother," cries the six-foot two-inch adult male of twenty-seven years in his therapist's office. "What was wrong with me—why didn't I save my sister from mother's abuse?" This man's innocence at age three (when these abuse scenarios occurred) is lost in his adult male competency: He has two Master's degrees and is an ordained minister. He is replaying the childhood memory with adult perceptions, values, competencies and beliefs. And from this distortion is the manifestation of trauma.
For child abuse victims, a new process needs to occur. A story, capturing the abuse issues correctly can protect the child from trauma in adulthood. This proactive process created by Vijai Sharma, Ph.D emerged from a specific example relating to the "Harry story." In the Harry story, ten year old Harry had been abused by his mother and father, abandoned by his mother through a court trial regarding sexual abuse guilt, and then found himself in a variety of foster placement where his oppositional/defiant behavior brought him into the therapeutic arena. As professionals and competent adults, Harry's innocence, and the inappropriateness of Harry's treatment is clear. But from Harry's view, as a child, the perception is clouded. Harry had been robbed of childhood safety. He was then rescued by a system of intervention, but he had no correct memory of these issues. Clearly, "bad things had happened to Harry, so he was becoming bad."
Harry story was originally written with a focus on these important "R words"— rules, robbery, rescue, and remember correctly. Dr. Sharma has taken this story and created a workbook to be used by clinicians for other children who emerge from similar abusive situations. There are many "Harrys" in our world who need this type of story to protect them from trauma in the future as they capture the correct memory in childhood concerning RULES, ROBBERY, RESCUE, and REMEMBER. And, there are many children in the world who join me, in thanking Dr. Sharma, for his valuable contribution to recovery.
In May 1996, I attended Jan Hindman's two-day workshop, "Beyond Our beliefs: Treating Sexual Trauma in a Managed Care Climate." During the workshop, she reviewed the research base for sensory trauma, explained the importance of developing memory, and other aspects of sensory-based treatment techniques. To demonstrate how the treatment was administered, Ms. Hindman related three case studies including the "Harry Story," which made the most impact on me and many other workshop participants I talked with. Everyone was excited and enthusiastic about putting put the new knowledge to work. But, along with the enthusiasm to change the world with our treatment modality, there was plenty of hesitation and self-doubt.
"Come Monday morning, I will forget most of it," someone quipped. As we were eating lunch and bracing for the afternoon segment of the workshop, another participant commented, "I just have a few minutes between appointments. I am often running late. I wouldn't have the wits to know what material I should pick along with the patient chart while my abuse victim child is waiting for me in the waiting room."
Managed Care was on everyone's mind. Part of the hesitation about adding child abuse counseling to one's practice was the difficulties in dealing with managed care companies. Someone said, " Managed care companies are really wary of abuse treatment. For any service you offer, they ask, 'tell me exactly what we are paying for? Give us your specific goals and how would you go about meeting them?' I don't know where to begin and what to tell them each time." Many participants, including myself, were generalist, rather than child abuse specialist, we were not yet comfortable with child abuse work. We wanted to help abused children, but didn't know where to begin. We wished for some tool, some form of structured material, that we could follow.
Driving back to Cleveland, Tennessee, a five-hour solo journey, the Harry Story kept "buzzing" in my head. Passing through the mountains, it suddenly struck me how "familiar" that story was. I was so engrossed in the story up to this point that it didn't occur to me that I had personally heard about many child victims who had experienced similar events and had gone through a similar ordeal. Thus was born the idea of turning Harry story into a child's storybook.
Through the Harry story, a sexually traumatized child will be able to identify with Harry and feel less intimidated about expressing his own memories, distortions, misguided guilt and fears. I wanted this storybook to be a "workbook" to help the child do the work of healing from the sexual trauma. Children do their work through play. Play can facilitate the work of healing. Therefore, I wanted this workbook to be somewhat of a play book, a sort of scrapbook which a child could individualize for himself or herself and work with creatively.
The workbook is a novel and proactive "life book" technique which is consistent with the sensory based treatment philosophy. My Book is intended to help a child put life experiences into a self-validating framework. The book is intended to facilitate the process of correcting the child's cognitions and modify trauma-producing thoughts, reasons, and memories.
Ms. Hindman, while discussing the sensory-based treatment, says, "Each day the patient struggles to remember, to review, and to collect the resolutions that occurred within the therapeutic environments. Much energy is expended by the sexual victim who desperately wants to battle sensory triggers with the cognitive resolution that occurred in our office." Ms. Hindman goes on to say, "The process of "REVIEW" and "REPETITION" is the most powerful form of learning."
Through the proposed life book technique, you can implement the sensory-based treatment approach in modifying a child's trauma producing cognitions. My Book is a tool to help you take your child-client through Harry's story and at the same time his/her own life story. Interwoven through the story are the four cardinal principles of recovery, RULES, ROBBERY, RESCUE, and REMEMBER. Through the story and the suggested activities and questions, the child learns the following: what rules were broken by parent(s); who and in what manner the child's innocence and sense of safety were robbed, how the child was rescued by certain people and interventions, and what a child ought to remember correctly regarding his or her innocence and the responsibility and obligations towards him or her that were not met by the adults. By using this process with children victims now, we can hope to protect them from adult trauma in the future.
The child section of "My Book" (sold separately) is like having three books rolled into one: a storybook, a workbook, and a playbook or a scrapbook, if you will. In the story, we have not used the name, "Harry" on purpose so that your child-client has the opportunity to choose names for the characters involved in the story. The story is always on the left side of the book. The workbook is for your child-client to use in working on his or her own story or to write his or her answers to abuse related questions. The scrapbook is to provide a child with another medium, that is, pictures, photographs, drawings, etc. to express his or her related feelings, so each story and workbook segment is followed by a two-page creative section. Suggest that your child-client color, paste pictures, draw, and/or express anything he/she prefers.
The workbook is intended to be used as a treatment tool to help a child heal who has experienced sex-abuse trauma. The recommended age group is roughly school age to adolescence, with appropriate accommodation for a child's mental age. My Book is not a tool for abuse investigation or validation. Provide appropriate material for a child who needs sex-abuse education to protect him or her against future victimization. Read the Disclaimer section for further cautions.