The Relational Trauma of Incest : A Family-Based Approach to Treatment book cover
1st Edition

The Relational Trauma of Incest
A Family-Based Approach to Treatment

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ISBN 9781572305991
Published December 21, 2000 by Guilford Press
220 Pages

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Book Description

This volume presents a groundbreaking understanding of incest and an innovative, family-based approach to treatment. The authors show that while not all incestuously abused children experience the classic diagnostic symptoms of trauma, virtually all do experience relational trauma --disruptions in the sense of safety, security, loyalty, and trust that may block connection and communication with nonoffending family members. Systematically combining individual and family sessions, the relational treatment model focuses on strengthening the child's protective relationships, mobilizing the family to help resolve the child's emotional and behavioral symptoms, and building the family's resiliency. Filled with annotated case material that illuminates the challenging treatment choices and dilemmas facing the clinician, this book offers essential guidance for anyone working with families in which incest has occurred.

Table of Contents

I. Basics of the Relational Approach
1. The Relational Approach
2. The Relational Approach in Action
3. Core Perspectives
II. Implementing the Relational Approach
4. Incest as a Complex Story
5. Creating a Collaborative Therapy
6. Strengthening Safe Family Relationships
7. Relational Treatment of Family Members Who Abuse
8. Three Cases
Appendix A: Research Support for the Relational Approach
Appendix B: Information on Child Sexual Abuse

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Marcia Sheinberg, LCSW, is Director of Training and Clinical Services at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. She is a cofounder of its Gender and Violence Project and the founder and Director of the Incest Project. An advisory editor for Family Process and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, she has published widely in professional journals. She maintains an active private practice in which she treats and consults with individuals, couples, and families on a variety of clinical issues.

Peter Fraenkel, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology in the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at the City College of the City University of New York. At the Ackerman Institute for the Family, he is a member of the Teaching Faculty, Director of Research and Clinical Member in the Incest Project, and Director of the Center for Time, Work, and the Family. In addition, Dr. Fraenkel is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University Medical School and Director of the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program at the NYU Child Study Center. An Ad Hoc Editor for Family Process and Advisory Editor for the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Dr. Fraenkel has published and lectured extensively. He also maintains a private practice.


This extraordinary book is a 'must read' for anyone who works with children and their families. In lively, clear, and highly readable prose, Sheinberg and Fraenkel provide a new model for a much needed integration of the child and family therapy modalities. Though they are working with the most complex and challenging cases--intrafamily child abuse--their methods and thinking are applicable to virtually all symptomatic and emotionally troubled children. The book is filled with a plethora of practical and highly creative methods for mobilizing the strengths of families and children and helping youngsters develop a more positive sense of self. It is a book you will find yourself referring to again and again. --Ellen F. Wachtel, JD, PhD, author of Treating Troubled Children and Their Families

Sheinberg and Fraenkel have produced a landmark volume that is clinically profound, morally complex, and organizationally elegant. It is a measure of their mastery that one feels deeply, not only for these preyed-upon children and their torn-apart mothers, but also for the offenders who must come to terms with what they have wrought. I know this work well, yet I am always moved and freshly educated by it. This book will become an instant classic for clinicians, researchers, activists, and policymakers. --Virginia Goldner, PhD, editor, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, Senior Faculty, Ackerman Institute for the Family

This wonderful book, so rich in innovative concepts and clinical techniques, brings a totally novel perspective to one of our most challenging clinical problems. It is hard to resist the temptation to reduce this highly emotional issue to simple black-and-white terms of children who need to be protected and adults who need to be punished. Sheinberg and Fraenkel counsel us instead to view childhood sexual abuse first and foremost as a family drama, to allow ourselves to listen to everyone's story and perspective in as nonjudgmental a way as possible, and to help families find a pathway through this crisis that provides not only a safe haven for the children involved, but also a sense of dignity for the family as a whole. A triumph of thoughtfulness and wisdom over emotionalism and polemics, this book is a gift to our field and, by extension, to every family who has had to struggle with this issue in their lives. --Peter Steinglass, MD, Executive Director, Ackerman Institute for the Family; Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College

The high prevalence of sexual abuse of children in families is now generally recognized. But what can be done to address the aftermath of incest, once it has been detected? This significant book brings into focus the relational trauma of sexual abuse, foregrounding the complexities that regularly confront family members and professionals. The many associated treatment dilemmas are acknowledged, and numerous maps are provided for resolving them. Including clearly illustrated, richly told accounts of effective clinical work, this book succeeds in expanding the range of compassionate options available to therapists and child protection workers. It is simply not to be missed. --Michael White, BASW, Dulwich Centre, Australia

As I read this terrific book, I was continuously reminded that the impact of sexual abuse is affected by both the reality and the perception of family relationships, that the entire family bears the burden of incest, and that rebuilding family relationships is the best path for healing and recovery. Sheinberg and Fraenkel are to be congratulated for their noteworthy contribution to the child sexual abuse literature. The reader will find a wealth of insights and practical suggestions that will be helpful in everyday clinical practice. --Anthony Mannarino, PhD, Director, Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents, Allegheny General Hospital