Dr. Christine Courtois on Incest: VIDEO

Dr. Christine Courtois explains the emotional impact of incest.

The following transcript contains part of an exclusive interview with Dr. Lisa Firestone and Dr. Christine Courtois.

CC      In my book revision for Healing the Incest Wound, I just wrote about the fact that I think that we don’t look enough at what families do to family members.  And we always assume that – it’s much easier to assume that it’s stranger danger or it’s somebody outside the family grouping.  And yet the data are very, very categorical that the most dangerous people to children are their intimates – are their family members and their parents.  And how complicated that makes it.  And if you, you know, if you get messages consistently or even inconsistently that you’re no good or you’re worthy of being abused, that’s what gets acted out because that’s what’s been voiced.

Well, I’m really taken by Jennifer Frye’s Betrayal Trauma Theory and really think that there’s a lot to be said for that in terms of with incestuous abuse in particular, but any kind of intimate abuse, that there is a significant betrayal.  And once you realize that, that in and of itself is psychologically traumatic and traumatizing.  So sometimes, it’s not exactly what happened, but with whom? by whom? And that it’s often premeditated, that it’s exploitive, that it’s something the person is doing for their own needs without any empathy for the person that’s being used or hurt.  And all of those things have profound emotional impact.

But I think we have to be careful, too.  Because I get concerned, and especially for male survivors, they feel like if somebody hears that they’re a survivor, that automatically puts them on alert, that they are an offender.  And, you know, I think that we need to keep making the distinction that you can have horrible abuse experiences and not ever offend against anybody.  But, when we look at offenders and violent offenders, they usually have a history of, often times for men, as I understand it, very severe emotional abuse, often by their mothers, and then physical abuse and then thirdly, sexual abuse.  So it’s not always that they’ve been sexually abused and they go off and abuse other people.  But there is, if you look at it in the other direction, people who are violent have themselves had a history of being misused and abused in some way.


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Dr-Courtois-DVDAttachment, Trauma and Dissociation

In this DVD, Dr. Christine Courtois draws upon her expertise in the field of trauma to discuss a variety of trauma related topics. She begins by talking about her work with survivors of childhood trauma, including the roles of attachment and dissociation. Dr. Courtois discusses the concept of the ‘Critical Inner Voice’ and Voice Therapy. She addresses how families can be a source of trauma, citing that statistically speaking “the most dangerous people to children are their intimates.” Dr. Courtois places an important emphasis on the extent to which individuals often minimize complex trauma, essentially saying of their abuse “Aw, it wasn’t so bad.” She discusses trauma bonding, repetition of trauma, and the treatment of violent individuals. Finally, Dr. Courtois offers some optimal parenting strategies “to promote the child’s self esteem” including building resilience and repairing negative experiences so that the child feels responded to and cared about.


Read More from Dr. Christine Courtois

Christine CourtoisChristine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP is a Psychologist in independent practice in Washington, DC where she is the principal of Courtois & Associates, PC. She received her PhD from the University of Maryland in College Park, in 1979. Dr. Courtois is immediate Past-President of Division 56 (Psychological Trauma) of the American Psychological Association and has recently published a revision of Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy (2010, 1988) and Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders: An Evidence-Based Guide (2009) co-edited with Dr. Julian Ford. Her new book, The Treatment of Complex Trauma: A Sequenced, Relationship-Based Approach, co-authored with Dr. Ford, will be published by Guilford later this year. She is currently co-editing another book with him on the treatment of complex traumatic stress disorders in children (Guilford) and co-editing a book with Drs. Donald Walker and Jamie Aten on trauma and spirituality (American Psychological Association Books) to be published in 2013. She has authored two other books,Recollections of Sexual Abuse: Treatment Principles and Guidelines (1999) and Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: A Workshop Model (1993). Dr. Courtois has published numerous articles and chapters on related topics. She is a Founding Associate Editor of the new APA Division 56 journal, Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, & Policy. She is Co-Founder (in 1990, with Joan Turkus, MD) of The CENTER: Posttraumatic Disorders Program, Washington, DC where she served as Clinical and Training Director for 16 years.

About the Author

Christine Courtois, Ph.D. Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP is a Psychologist in independent practice in Washington, DC where she is the principal of Courtois & Associates, PC. She received her PhD from the University of Maryland in College Park, in 1979. Dr. Courtois is immediate Past-President of Division 56 (Psychological Trauma) of the American Psychological Association and has recently published a revision of Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy (2010, 1988) and Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders: An Evidence-Based Guide (2009) co-edited with Dr. Julian Ford. Her new book, The Treatment of Complex Trauma: A Sequenced, Relationship-Based Approach, co-authored with Dr. Ford, will be published by Guilford later this year. She is currently co-editing another book with him on the treatment of complex traumatic stress disorders in children (Guilford) and co-editing a book with Drs. Donald Walker and Jamie Aten on trauma and spirituality (American Psychological Association Books) to be published in 2013. She has authored two other books, Recollections of Sexual Abuse: Treatment Principles and Guidelines (1999) and Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: A Workshop Model (1993). Dr. Courtois has published numerous articles and chapters on related topics. She is a Founding Associate Editor of the new APA Division 56 journal, Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, & Policy. She is Co-Founder (in 1990, with Joan Turkus, MD) of The CENTER: Posttraumatic Disorders Program, Washington, DC where she served as Clinical and Training Director for 16 years.

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