Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Thank You for Your Work
Saturday January 26, 2008

Dear Dr. Miller,

I am writing on behalf of the patients with whom we work and the therapists we train. Your books have been most influential in providing clear and poignant statements about the pervasive and devastating effects of early abuse and neglect. Your writing is immensely comforting and validating to those who think they are alone in their pain and suffering. Although we also work with people who have had traumatic events in adulthood (car accidents, industrial accidents, natural disasters, and the like), the majority of our patients have had multiple traumas in childhood at the hands of one or both parents.

As an art therapist I particularly appreciate your use of painting to give voice to your own childhood experiences. Every day in our outpatient clinic I see people who do not have words for their internal experiences but when given drawing materials or clay are able to give form to preverbal or nonverbal material which previously had been manifest in headaches, stomach aches, and other somatic symptoms, addictions, or debilitating depression. Once the image is in a concrete form the words come and, in short order, the person is no longer alexithymic.

My husband L. T. is a psychiatrist who, like you, has discarded psychoanalytic theory in favor of treatment focused on early trauma and neglect. Together we have developed a program that provides 35 hours of individual therapy per week in a one- or two- week outpatient program for people who cannot get trauma therapy in their own towns. We find that we are able to process a number of early traumas (using art therapy, hypnosis, and externalized dialogues with the child frozen in the trauma), making it possible for a person to make substantial psychological gains and to return to a hometown therapist for additional supportive work.

Perhaps it is still too early to claim that most therapists are able to recognize and treat the effects of childhood trauma. However, I see that here in the United States there is developing a fortuitous convergence of ideas from yourself, Bruce Perry, Bessel van der Kolk, Robert Scaer, Judith Herman, Richard Schwartz, and Nancy Napier (to name a few). If we can all stand strong against the cultural forces that profit from "poisonous pedagogy" we may yet reach a critical mass that will influence future generations. Thank you for your work and your strong voice for the voiceless.

L. G.
Intensive Trauma Therapy

AM: Thank you for your letter and the information that you give us about your work. I wish I could share your hope, but I feel still helpless when I hear intelligent people say that children need to be spanked. And there are not many therapists available who dare to realize what this position of the adult means for a small child.

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