0
Get Alert
Please Wait... Processing your request... Please Wait.
You must sign in to sign-up for alerts.

Please confirm that your email address is correct, so you can successfully receive this alert.

1
Book Review   |    
With the Phoenix Rising: Lessons From Ten Women Who Overcame the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Maxine Harris, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2000; doi:
View Author and Article Information

by Frances K. Grossman, Alexandra B. Cook, Selin S. Kepkep, and Karestan C. Koenen; San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999, 258 pages, $34.95

For clinicians working in the field of trauma recovery, the compelling question is not why sexual and physical abuse cause such pain and such lasting psychological distress, but rather why some people seem able to survive and even thrive after having endured conditions that might legitimately be described as horrific. In their book With the Phoenix Rising, Grossman, Cook, Kepkep, and Koenen tackle the complex question of resiliency, which they define as "doing well in the face of a history of serious stress or trauma."

After a brief review of the literature, the authors introduce us to the ten women whose stories form the basis of the book— and therein lie both the strength and the weakness of this very interesting book. The stories are compelling and instructive as the women share how they have managed to survive and to build meaningful and full lives. However, there are only ten women. They were selected from among 26 who heard about the project and expressed interest. All ten were in therapy, sometimes of many years' duration. Eight were college graduates, four with advanced degrees, and several worked in the mental health field. Despite the authors' assurance that the women are a diverse group, they appear to represent only one segment of the survivor continuum. That said, there is still much to learn from the stories these survivors have to tell.

The authors describe a number of childhood variables that they believe contribute to resiliency. Many of the interviewees had found a safe haven, in school or at work, where they were able to succeed and even excel. This success not only contributed to the women's self-esteem but also led the way to resources in adulthood that furthered recovery. All of the women continued to believe in the importance of relationships, at least partly because they had experienced a caring relationship with at least one person while growing up. Besides providing respite from the abuse, these supports gave the survivor the sense that she could be loved. All of the survivors made some attempt to manage their feelings, and most of them did so while keeping the feelings conscious.

Although the book is about resiliency, in the third part of their discussion the authors lay out what might well be a blueprint for recovery. Here they are not only talking about the ten women with whom they spoke, but they are also guiding women and therapists through the essential components of the recovery process. The authors stress the importance of managing feelings and offer a range of strategies from self-soothing and humor to cognitive labeling and controlled expression. They emphasize self-care and the development of clear emotional and physical boundaries. Recovery includes formulating an accurate appreciation of what one has been through and a willingness to acknowledge one's achievement in having survived (1).

Finally, the authors stress the importance of making sense of the abuse, which includes not only shifting blame from oneself to one's perpetrator but also developing an appreciation of the "big picture." For some of the women this meant a social or philosophical understanding, for others it was a spiritual perspective, and for still others it involved developing a caring and altruistic stance toward others.

The book concludes with a revisiting of the ten women five to eight years later, for which I was especially grateful because I had come to care about them; so often the reader of books based on clinical interviews is left wondering what happened. The authors fill us in on the life events and triumphs of the courageous women, and it is wonderful to read that they continue to face the challenges of growing and developing.

Dr. Harris is clinical director of Community Connections and executive director of the National Capital Center for Trauma Recovery and Empowerment, both in Washington, D.C.

Harris M: Trauma Recovery and Empowerment: A Clinician's Guide to Working With Women in Groups. New York, Free Press, 1998
 
+

References

Harris M: Trauma Recovery and Empowerment: A Clinician's Guide to Working With Women in Groups. New York, Free Press, 1998
 
+
+

CME Activity

There is currently no quiz available for this resource. Please click here to go to the CME page to find another.
Submit a Comments
Please read the other comments before you post yours. Contributors must reveal any conflict of interest.
Comments are moderated and will appear on the site at the discertion of APA editorial staff.

* = Required Field
(if multiple authors, separate names by comma)
Example: John Doe



Related Content
Books
The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychopharmacology, 4th Edition > Chapter 7.  >
The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychopharmacology, 4th Edition > Chapter 7.  >
The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychopharmacology, 4th Edition > Chapter 7.  >
The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry, 5th Edition > Chapter 12.  >
Dulcan's Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry > Chapter 31.  >
Topic Collections
Psychiatric News
APA Guidelines
PubMed Articles