“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou
Healing from Incest: Intimate Conversations with My Therapist is a recently-released book I wrote with a former client, Geri Henderson, (MSI Press, LLC). I was her therapist for five years. We started writing the book seven years ago, five years after therapy had terminated. Although I never really wanted to write this book, I can now say I am incredibly grateful for Geri’s inner knowing that it needed to be written. Her choice and consent, as well as her family’s, to release her personal information for the story is not only inspiring but motivating. Incest is not talked about. It is hidden and this is the very reason it is often perpetuated. Talking about it is like shining a flashlight into a very dark place. Normally, of course, the therapeutic relationship is also not discussed, because therapists are required by law to protect confidentiality. It remains uncomfortable, as a therapist, to talk openly about a client relationship.
Since confidentiality defines the therapeutic relationship, there were many ethical issues I had to consider as I approached the idea of writing this book with Geri. I was bound by my professional Code of Ethics not to enter into a dual relationship with a client until a reasonable amount of time after therapy. Aside from that, the truth is that it took me a long while (and many consultations with professionals, both legal and those in my professional field) to sort out how the writing of this book could actually be possible at all.
The choice to use our real names was difficult for both of us, but we had numerous discussions regarding this and finally agreed it was necessary. It’s a story about facing issues of shame and vulnerability. Using our real names means neither one of us can hide.
Geri had kept her secret of sexual abuse by her minister father a secret for a very long time…well into her adult years. Yet, the telling of her story, while painful, has been powerfully healing for her. I learned a great deal about her experience in therapy during the writing of our book, as we both sat back and processed her journey from a different and new vantage point. I want to believe I learned from mistakes I made along the way. Mostly I celebrate her resiliency and the power of the therapeutic relationship that allowed healing to occur.
We were pleased that The US Review of Books gave our book a “recommended” designation (because only about 10% of the USR reviews receive this). In part, this review states:
“…With dignity and resolve, Henderson exhibits unflinching honesty, while still exuding her determination to ‘not write another poor, miserable me book.’ Emerton’s wisdom provides a counterpoint to Henderson’s perplexity: ‘This book is really the story of Geri building that solid, true sense of self into the survivor she is’…..Healing From Incest is a documentation of two women’s creative approach to therapy and healing, one using her professional acumen and empathy, the other shining with her courage to endow others with her insights and determination.”
Part of what inspired us to illuminate such a dark topic are the alarming child sexual abuse statistics. According to studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. We hope anyone who reads this story, whether they are an incest victim, a professional, a family member, a friend of a victim, a mother or father of the victim, or a person who just wants to help and better understand, will find hope, help and empowerment.
Proceeds from book sales will be donated to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN.org).