Assisted by a talented science writer, child psychiatrist Bruce Perry presents a series of heartbreaking stories of children severely damaged by trauma. But that’s only one side of this remarkable book. The other side is how many of these profoundly damaged children were assisted to heal.
Perry explains his “neurosequential” approach that sequentially targets brain regions left undeveloped by abuse or neglect. He presents compelling cases to illustrate how the child’s age at the time of the abuse or neglect will determine the gaps in neurological development and how his interventions sequentially target those developmental gaps. For children whose brains were stalled out in infancy, for example, therapy may start with healing touch or rhythm before moving on to higher brain activities.
The focus, always, is on the child’s humanity. Perry explains the importance of listening and letting the child set the pace. He warns of the damage caused by well-intentioned but poorly trained therapists who push children to open up, or who administer punitive interventions in the guise of treatment. Healing is not about a specific technique administered in cookbook fashion but, rather, about love, and restoring shattered human connections.
This is an enlightening and heartening book and a real page-turner to boot. The neurological underpinnings of the trauma theory are presented in clear English accessible to anyone who can read. If you’re a mental health professional, psychologist, or psychiatrist, you’ll love this book. If you’re a parent or a teacher, it’s also for you. Whoever you are, it’s for you. I guarantee you will be engaged and inspired.
Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. is the Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, a Houston-based non-profit organization which promotes innovations in service, research and education in child maltreatment and childhood trauma. He has served as a consultant to the FBI and is the former Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as former Vice-Chairman for Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. He lives in Houston, Texas and Alberta, Canada. Maia Szalavitz is an award-winning journalist who specializes in science and health. She is the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide with Joseph Volpicelli, M.D., Ph.D. She lives in New York City.