Healing Our Throwaway Children
Review by Shelly Goodman, PhD
Cate Shepherd allows us to enter into her life’s traumas and her volume reminds us of what always must remain the central issue in the treatment, most especially with the so severely wounded patient population she has worked with, that being effective treatment grows from the unique and healing bond between patient and therapist. We can vividly see her world forming the kind of secure attachments that further empathy and self-regulation. Shepherd graphically conveys how she moves along with the troubled youngsters she lives and works with in a parallel manner that creates a bond for even the most despairing. I feel it is crucial to state ever so clearly that in reading her text I felt I was standing beside her and saw how the wounds of the healer are indispensable in the process of healing. It demands a prominent place on the library shelf of those of us charged with opening the darkness of mistrust to the power of human understanding and connection.
It is creative and emotionally written, very much like a novel. We live
with her the anguish of being a marginalized child and end with a plea for a more just and sensitive world for our children to live in. We live with her the most moving accounts of her inspiring successes and heartbreaking failures. For example we could feel her pain in receiving the letter from the youngster she was working with, Mario, when he learns she was leaving the program she tells us that “acid seared my gut” (p.72). She shares with us how she was made she had no right to take care of herself. That she was in effect deserting Mario and thereby recreating a situation that he has to repeatedly endure. I have seldom encountered such honesty in the presentation of clinical encounters.
Our author, I at times want to say friend, tells us the sad, moving, and well-drawn experiences of children who have had to live through abuse and abandonment resulting in trusting others becoming a foreign object. The pain has met with in the course of her life is undeniable in helping those whose lives she enters into with such tact and caring to begin to walk down the path of healing. She beautifully shows her reader that the people she works with display terrifying outward behaviors that are actually desperate cries for help. Shepherd daily provides optimal emotional response to their emerging states of mind. They can’t form the kind of secure attachments that help in the productive development of empathy and self-regulation. The result being they cannot modulate their emotions and feel but little true feelings for their caregivers. Believing no one cares for them they often act out by doing harm to themselves or others. Our guide validates their deepest hurts and enables their being able to trust and bond often for the first time. She helps change the rules that define their life’s possibilities. I could not imagine concluding a review on a more wonderful and deeply loving feeling. Bless you, Cate.
—Sheldon M. Goodman, PhDExplore posts in the same categories: Books