Knowing Where to Tap: Using a Structural-Strategic Lens to Locate The Root Cause of a Family’s Trauma

There is an excellent story on the importance of knowing where to tap told by the late family therapist, Virginia Satir: After listening to the engineer’s description of the problems and asking a few questions, he went to the boiler room. He looked at the maze of twisting pipes, listened to the thump of the […]

Trauma Treatment with Impossible Cases: The Undercurrents Technique

What causes traumatized children and families to get stuck and unable to move forward? How can we change the outcome of impossible cases? Over a 30-year career in mental health, I’ve set forth to answer these questions. My personal quest began after my first major treatment failure when I received this message from a mother:  […]

Failure to Launch: The Safety Planning Technique

Failure to Launch describes young adults who are struggling with the transition to adulthood. They have an inability to leave home and support themselves. This trend is reaching epidemic proportions. For example, a recent study cited in Psychology Today reported that 45 percent of young adults in the state of New Jersey between the ages […]

A Family Systems Approach to Treating Intergenerational Trauma

When we think of creating family legacies and preserving family traditions, we focus on positive connections and joyous occasions. But often joy is only part of the family story. Pain, while often ignored or even denied, can be passed down from generation to generation. This legacy of pain, coined Intergenerational trauma (IGT) after World War […]

Failing Forward: Stabilization Before Trauma Playbooks

Trauma treatment is more challenging when the entire family is treated, not just the child. A central reason for this is based on our research on what we term as interactional trauma within Chapter 2 of Treating the Traumatized Child: A Step-by-Step Family Systems Approach. Interactional trauma takes place when there is constant bickering, yelling, […]

Preventing Relapse in Traumatized Families: The Troubleshooting Technique

Relapse occurs when our clients initially get worse before they get better. It is like stretching a rubber band that will snap back as soon as we let go. Over time, a child’s problem symptoms (i.e., self-harm, aggression, anxiety, extreme disrespect, etc.) that are caused by a traumatic event often become the new normal in […]

The Motivational Phone Call Technique To Engage Traumatized Families

Engaging children and parents in effective trauma treatment is difficult at best. Conventionally, engagement and rapport building begins in the first face-to-face session. More often than not it’s a harsh start-up. Parents and kids enter the first session angry, frustrated, and hopeless. Arms are tightly crossed, and at the slightest provocation, all hell breaks loose […]

Healing Family Trauma: Two Families, One Tragedy

On July 19, 2018, an amphibious vehicle, known as a duck boat, encountered a thunderstorm during a sightseeing tour on Table Rock Lake, near Branson Missouri. The boat sank, killing 31 passengers. For many of us, the event was only a blip on our radar. However, the families involved are left with ongoing emotional and […]

Kill the Spider: A Trauma Playbook for Strongholds of Shame

Kill the spider describes what can happen when our client’s minds believe the lies perpetuated by a traumatic event. The result can be the stronghold of shame and require shame therapy. Cobwebs are the metaphor for the child’s trauma symptoms (i.e., depression, aggression, addiction, anger, self-harm) that medicate the stronghold of shame – the spider. Trauma […]

Rethink Child Trauma Using Feedback Loops

Unhealed child trauma impacts not only the child but the family as well. I often see family members with trauma symptoms when they are dealing with an out-of-control, traumatized child. One father told me: “As the dad, I am supposed to protect my child from hurt and pain. When my daughter started cutting on her […]

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