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Ethical Boundaries: Treating Childhood Sexual Trauma
Childhood Sexual Trauma continuing education psychologist CEUs

Section 23
Your Role in Your Family

CEU Question 16 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Child Abuse
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CE

Now focus in on your place in the family picture. Each family member tends to play a distinctive role, contributing to the continuation of either helpful or harmful family patterns. Through the technique of clustering in this exercise, you'll be exploring what your role was in the family you grew up with.

1) Put the words MY ROLE in a circle in the center of a blank page.
2) Then allow yourself to start making associations to your place or role in your family-whatever words or phrases pop into your mind. For example, "the rebel" might be your first thought. Write your word on the page with a circle around it and a line connecting it back to the words MY ROLE.
3) The new word or phrase may trigger a string of other words. From "the rebel," you might generate "troublemaker at school," "always angry," and "long-haired defiance."
4) When one string is complete, begin another train of thought branching out from the nucleus phrase.
5) Keep clustering until you feel a shift in your attention, as if you've emptied out your thoughts for now.

1) Look over your clustered associations. One may stir a number of feelings or memories, a clue that you may have
more to discover and express in this area.
2) Identify which portion of the cluster affects you most strongly, and use that part as a departure point to write what Gabriele Rico calls a "word sketch," a short passage that expands on the associations triggered for you.

My Role Childhood Sexual Trauma CEUs

The central portion of a clustering done by Diane, an editorial assistant in her late twenties, is included here. Notice, in Diane's word sketch, how she started with the association "can't breathe" and then brought in some of the other items from the cluster.

"I felt squished in my role, as if I couldn't take a breath without considering how it would affect the others. In the middle with everyone-keeping people happy-but what would make ME happy? I just wanted to be alone, to think things out on my own. But then I feel guilty. I must get out of this trap."

In speaking about her word sketch, Diane added, "I wrote about what I experienced in the past, but I can tell that I'm still trying to please others. That's why I wrote the last sentence: I'm still in a pattern that feels like a trap."

On reflection, Diane wrote how her pattern of being in the middle played itself out differently with her parents and an influential uncle. She mediated her parents' fights and placated her rich uncle when he was offended by her father. Reflecting on the present-"still in a pattern that feels like a trap"-Diane noticed how patterns persist through the years. She is more motivated now to get out of that trap, because putting memories and feelings into words focuses and intensifies one's need for change.

After completing your own cluster and writing a word sketch, you will have a series of snapshots that connect the roles you played in your family to the variety of roles that you play in relationships today. Seeing these connections more clearly will help you assess whether and how to change your current patterns.
- Foster, Carolyn, The Family Patterns Workbook, Putnum Publishing Group: New York, 1993.


Personal Reflection Exercise #9
The preceding section contained information about the discovery of family roles. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Assink, M., van der Put, C. E., Meeuwsen, M. W. C. M., de Jong, N. M., Oort, F. J., Stams, G. J. J. M., & Hoeve, M. (2019). Risk factors for child sexual abuse victimization: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 145(5), 459–489.

Betsch, T., Wünsche, K., Großkopf, A., Schröder, K., & Stenmans, R. (2018). Sonification and visualization of predecisional information search: Identifying toolboxes in children. Developmental Psychology, 54(3), 474–481.

Webster, G. (2018). Psychoanalytic complexity theory: An application to the treatment of child sexual offenders. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 35(1), 83–92.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 23
What will be the result after your client completes his or her own cluster and writing a word sketch? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Test.

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