Healing for Victims of Abuse: Evaluating Inner Child Therapy

by Robert D. McLaughlin, Christian Counselor

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It is a tragic situation that happens all too often in families today. It is also something that, until recently, was discussed very little outside of the confines of counseling. There are many children who are sexually and physically abused within their families today, and there are many people who know of someone who was abused as a child.

As a result of abuse, those who have grown to adulthood find themselves emotionally damaged. This damage ranges to acting out behaviors, inability to maintain appropriate relationships with others, whether with friends or more intimate relationships, and even suicidal tendencies.

No one doubts the severity of the trauma that results to those who are unfortunate enough to have suffered abuse. Many times, the trauma is compounded when the revelation of what happened rips the family apart. People in the family start choosing whom to believe, deepening the wounds, and frequently causing wounds that are so deep that they never heal. The family never comes together in too many cases.

The counseling community, in recent years, has attempted to deal with this issue, and to find how best to help the victims heal themselves, first of all; then how to work with the family in keeping those bonds alive, if possible. One technique that came out of this and has gained quite a bit of usage is called "inner child work."

Inner child therapy works from the premise that before the person can become a whole adult, the "child that they were" has to become whole. There are stages of life that each person has to go through before he or she can adequately go on with life, and because of abuse, the victims were stopped. The things that happened to the person as a child were beyond their understanding and resulted in the emotional damage that they finally recognize as an adult. This therapy technique aims to help the person go back and deal with these issues with the help of a therapist or counselor.

This therapy technique starts with the person getting in contact with his or her inner child, who will serve as the victim's guide to uncover the damage. The person is encouraged to visualize this guide, to get to the point that they can "see" the guide, and to interact with this guide. The guide may not be of the same sex of the person who is in counseling, but many times will be a child. Many times during the course of therapy, "contact" will be made between the counselee and the guide.

There is a major problem with this technique that can arise in the course of the counseling. The person in counseling is taught to get into contact with a force other than God, Who is the true source of healing. The person in counseling is led to believe that there are other sources of healing than those God provides. Also, the person unwittingly opens him or herself to demonic influences masquerading as a guide to aid in healing.

We, as Christians, whether we counsel people who, unfortunately, have been abused as children, or know these people as friends, relatives, or fellow Christians, need to emphasize to these people that God provides healing. They need us, as fellow Christians, to help them understand that God loves them as they are, and that they are loved with a righteous love, by fellow Christians as well as by God. Only through God can these victims find the wholeness that they need, plus the ability to forgive those who abused them. They need for us, as fellow Christians, to provide them with understanding, and to be willing to listen, as we point them to Christ, Who can heal those wounds.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume III, Part 8, August 1995.

Copyright 1999 Robert D. McLaughlin. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

Click here for Robert McLaughlin's e-mail address.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.