1st Edition

Fire of the Five Hearts A Memoir of Treating Incest

By Holly A. Smith Copyright 2002
    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book is about the influence of twenty years of work in the field of incest on a therapist's professional and personal life. It is comprised of individual cases, and touches upon topics including spirituality, sex between siblings, counter-transference, and incest teams. The author shares, in unadulterated prose, her experience as an incest therapist. This important, courageous work touches upon issues important to and resonant for mental health professionals treating incest and sexual abuse as well as the incest survivor or survivor's family member.


    1. Ricky Still Loves Lulu

    2. Isabella

    3. The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited Upon the Daughters
    4. Laying Down with the Offender

    5.To My Haunting Ophelia, Who Brings Me to My Knees - Tie My Hands: On Esthetics, Art, and Spontaneous Weeping

    6. On Siblings and Sex

    7. The Therapist with Child: Transference and Counter-transference Ad Nauseum

    8. On Finding a Voice

    9. Falling From Grace

    10. Spank Me: On Sex and the Unthinkable

    11. From Field to Administration

    12. Pockets of Compassion - When Mine are Empty


    Holly A. Smith is the supervisor of the Boulder County Sexual Abuse Team in Colorado. She has taught graduate-level courses on the treatment of incest and sexual abuse at the Naropa Institute and has trained at the Denver University School of Social Work.

    "I've read many books pounded out by psychiatrists and psychologists and MSW's with their dry prose and their brilliant insights into the psyche of their clients. This one is from another world. It isn't a let-me-tell-you-wow let-it-all-hang-out psychology clinical case history book. It has too much passion to be just that. And love: Fire of the Five Hearts reeks of passion and love, some we would expect; some that comes out of left field...It's ostensibly a book about protecting the violated child, but soon enough we realize that everyone here suffers some kind of violation --- the children, the mothers, the fathers, the social workers, the society. It reminds me of the words of one of my own psychotherapists: we are all abused children." -- The Review of Arts, Philosophy, Literature and the Humanities [RALPH]
    "Each day Holly Smith rises, eats her breakfast, kisses her three children goodbye and walks out of one world and into another, a secretive place so lurid, so personally troubling that someone once described her life's work as "swallowing poison. Smith is the supervisor of the Boulder County Sexual Abuse Team. Her specialty is incest.

    She recently has released her first book, "Fire of the Five Hearts: A Memoir of Treating Incest" (Brunner-Routledge, $17.95). Written in first person, the book is, at turns, disturbing in its descriptions, deeply personal and confessional. Smith calls it the purge of two decades of emotion.

    There are no statistics in the book, no solutions, no real theories about the cause of incest. Instead it is a collection of the cases (with names changed) that have crossed Smith's desk and descriptions of how they have rearranged her view of the world." -- Denver Post, December 22, 2002.
    "Smith's book, written for general readers as well as those in the field, is above all an emotional journey, a pastiche of remembrance of past cases, spun with lyrical prose that lures you into its chamber of horrors as gently as a lullaby. Smith offers vignettes of her patients and the cast of characters that go along with the,: the fathers, some domineering and cruel, others pitiful and slight; the mothers, stunned or unbelieving, who seem to have abdicated their roles as protectors of their children ...Smith's memoir is a gripping, dignified journey to a world where dignity is in short supply. It may not be happy, but its value lies in its mere existence, in Smith's willingness to go to that basement and rout around with a flashlight and a broom." -- Patti Thorn, Books Editor, Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado, Nov. 16, 2002
    "Holly Smith has given us an intensely personal account of her life as a social worker specializing in incest, "the gravest and most destructive atrocity to be thrust on a child." She lets us follow her through her workday and see, through her eyes, the pain felt by the children and their loved ones. She also shows us the difficulty in determining where guilt lies and what course of action is in the child's best interest. This is disturbing material, a virtual tour through the gutters of human experience, but it may bring some comfort to victims and their families, and it will give the budding social worker a perspective she will not get from any textbook." -- Psychology Today
    "In this extraordinary book, Holly Smith describes how deeply a mental health professional can enter the experiential world of incest victims and their family members, and how this profoundly affects both mind and body. It is a great privilege for the reader to be invited to share in the author's dedication and love for those for whom she cares, in her anguish and in her joy. Indeed the reader will love her for what she does and who she is . . . this book cannot help but have a profound impact on all those who read it." -- Onno van der Hart, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands and President, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
    "Holly Smith has provided a window into her world that is both distressing and inspiring. She allows us to experience what she experiences-fears, joys, disgust, and all. She is our gentle guide. She achieves the perfect balance between story-teller and educator. Simply put: Fire of the Five Hearts is a gem." -- Dr. Charles R. Figley, author of Helping Traumatized Families, (from the foreword)
    "Written reflectively, the book acknowledges the fragility of those who are called to heal the broken. Smith, who also leads training sessions for new social workers, posits there is no recipe for resilience, but certainly this book can be added to the social worker's toolkit because, along with some of the distressing accounts of horror, there is also hope." -- Publisher's Weekly, August 19, 2002
    "Fire of the Five Hearts Holly A. Smith (Brunner-Routledge). Smith works with the victims of incest, and she loves each and every one of her clients. Too, she is in love with the mountains and the trees and birds and red foxes around Boulder. She hates her job, but can't let it go. She despises what some people, for unfathomable reasons, do to their own children. She knows how to cry. It's ostensibly a book about protecting the violated child, but soon enough we realize that everyone here suffers some kind of violation --- the children, the mothers, the fathers, the social workers, the society. It is astonishingly well written, and gives a clear-eyed account of the danger of working with those who may well destroy one's sense of self." -- Ralph, Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities, Volume XXXII, Number 3, Early Winter, Editors' Picks