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Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting: The Codependency Connection

Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting: The Codependency Connection


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Self-healing through self-parenting, a concept introduced a generation ago, has helped thousands of adult children of alcoholics who are codependent and have conflicts in their primary relationships. Now Patricia O'Gorman, Ph.D., and Phil Diaz, M.S.W., authors of the classic book The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children and its companion workbook, expand the reach of that successful healing paradigm to anyone who has suffered from any kind of trauma. Whether they grew up in a dysfunctional home, were victims of violence, or suffered other types of acute distress, many people struggle to determine the impact of earlier trauma on current adult decision making. O'Gorman and Diaz show how trauma is a driver of dysfunctional behaviors and linked with codependency, and they offer a concise yet detailed resource for survivors and thrivers as well as the professionals who work with them. Through a process modeled after the 12 Steps of AA, Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting: The Codependency Connection offers help to a broad array of readers (not just those who are ACOAs) by healing the wounded inner core and helping readers reconnect to their inner child.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757316142
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/03/2012
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 750,120
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Phil Diaz, M.S.W., is the director of community development and education for Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches in Palm Beach, Florida, and has a private practice specializing in the treatment of addiction and trauma at Lifescape Solutions in Delray Beach, Florida. He is the former executive director of the Harrigan Foundation, where he specialized in Gestalt family therapy, and the former CEO of Gateway Community Services, a 300-bed drug treatment facility for adolescents and adults in Jacksonville, Florida, where he pioneered PTSD treatment using EMDR and motivational therapy. Patricia O'Gorman, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in East Chatham and Albany, New York, is noted for her work in trauma, families, children of alcoholics, child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse. She was one of the first researchers on children of alcoholics in the early 1970s, documenting the impact of alcoholism and sobriety on adolescent development, and went on to create the Department of Prevention and Education for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions that include clinical director of a child welfare agency, executive director of an agency serving survivors of crime and abuse, and director of prevention for NIAAA. She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday. She is the author of numerous books and articles in magazines including Addiction Today, Counselor, and Recovery. She brings the same type of seminal thinking to the topic of trauma and codependency that she used to help create the Children of Alcoholics movement.

Read an Excerpt


Trauma: The Missing Link

It's never too late to be who you might have been.
—George Eliot

Trauma surrounds us. Recent studies show that exposure to traumatic stress is higher than previously understood. Given that trauma exposure is becoming more common—as is awareness about that exposure—it is interesting that most people who have been impacted by trauma do not think of themselves as trauma survivors. For example, serious illness in oneself or one's child; losing a job or a home; losing a spouse to death or divorce; working in an ER as a nurse; or volunteering to do recovery work after a natural disaster—all these can be traumatic. So, too, is the impact of deployment on our military men and women and their families. Because many trauma survivors don't identify themselves as traumatized, they are 'invisible.'

There is one exception to this tendency not to identify as being traumatized. Survivors of pervasive or complex trauma (see Chapter 1 for more about complex and other traumas) more easily label themselves as trauma survivors. Such survivors, including adult children of alcoholics and children of other types of challenging families, have suffered a more subtle kind of trauma that left them wounded and searching for wholeness. They seek therapy, read books, attend conferences, and go to Al-Anon meetings—all in an attempt to right something that they experienced. Once they appreciate their own trauma histories and their resilience, they begin to address the way that their trauma manifested for them—the only way—the one thing that really caught their attention: their need to care for others. This is codependency—a type of attachment to others where there is a tendency not to take care of oneself while simultaneously seeing to what everyone else needs. (See Chapter 3 for a full discussion of codependency.)

Research—as well as anecdotal evidence from our patients, conference attendees, and readers—shows that what lies at the base of the struggle with codependency—that is, why people cannot take active care of themselves and why the needs of others feel more imperative than their ownis a response to trauma. Whether this trauma occurred early in childhood or is more recent doesn't matter. Trauma is indeed proving to be the missing link in the codependency field.

For an adult, trauma is defined as exposure to a one-time event, numerous exposures to horrific events, or ongoing exposure to events such as war or domestic violence that profoundly and negatively affect the person. For children, ongoing neglect or abuse, as well as exposure to a one-time or ongoing horrific event(s), constitute traumatic exposure. Recently, research has expanded our understanding of the impact of trauma to possibly include those who live with someone who has been traumatized, such as family members of veterans who themselves are experiencing signs of trauma. Long neglected and misunderstood by healthcare professionals and survivors alike, trauma is now being seen as a driver of behavior by both the treatment community and those who have experienced its destructive force—a driver that we need to comprehend more fully.

We humans are complex and multifaceted. Many of us know trauma intimately. Trauma and the resulting codependency (with their many faces and numerous presentations) serve to underscore our need to take care of ourselves and the price we pay when we do not. The good news is that finally trauma and codependency are beginning to command the attention they deserve—and so are effective strategies for managing them, like self-parenting!

Self-parenting is about guiding yourself through a process that allows you to become who you would like to be—who you were meant to be—by healing yourself through caring for yourself. How well we learn to self-parent determines how well we go through life.

Trauma researchers have recently proclaimed the need for those impacted by trauma to become the parent to themselves that they needed growing up (Fogash and Copeley 2008). We in the codependency community have known for years that this self-parenting is possible and that it works very well!

Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting—The Codependency Connection is the first book written for those who have developed codependency as a coping skill after experiencing trauma. It is a survivor's book—or as we say with our strength-based focus, a thriver's book—providing a personal focus for those affected. It is invaluable to those who are looking for a resource to help them heal, and it's a useful tool for professionals as a needed and valuable resource in their work with their clients. It complements the growing literature on both trauma and codependency by offering a simple process that readers can employ to begin their healing: the process of self-parenting. We will take you through this transformative process of becoming the parent that you have always needed, a process we have specifically tailored for those healing from trauma and its subsequent codependency.

We will teach you how to parent yourself by identifying and helping you soothe the pain of your trauma on psychological, neurobiological, and spiritual levels. We will assist you in identifying, owning, and growing your hard-won resilience, and we will guide you in charting your recovery as you begin to celebrate who you are today, not just what you can do for others. We will help you accomplish all these things through the use of the self-parenting techniques, affirmations, and self-soothing exercises described in Part Two of this book. The self-parenting process is complemented by information on trauma, codependency, the neurobiology of trauma, the twelve principles of healing, and other sources of support that are available.

This book is our gift to you—and to those of you who have worked with us, shared your stories, and made us aware of the connection between trauma and codependency. We hope the process of self-parenting as it relates to trauma and codependency will be meaningful to you on a deep and healing level, and we invite you to share your thoughts with us at For more information on Patricia's clinical work contact her at

And now, as we say at the end of each step, 'Let the healing begin.'

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction-Trauma: The Missing Link 1

Part One: Understanding Trauma and the Codependency Connection

1 Identifying Trauma 7

2 Living with Trauma 29

3 The Codependency Connection 45

4 Resiliency and Trauma: Growing Strong in the Hurt Places 69

5 The Neurobiology of Trauma 91

6 The Principles of Healing Trauma and Codependency 103

Part 2 The Self-Parenting Process

7 Step One: We Admitted We Have Been Traumatized and We Are Codependent 117

8 Step Two: We Asked for Spiritual Help and Let Go of Compulsive Self-Reliance 125

9 Step Three: We Let Go of Toxic Loyalty and Let Our Higher Power Guide Us 135

10 Step Four: We Made an Inventory of Our Assets and Deficits Regarding Our Trauma and Codependency 145

11 Step Five: We Learned to Forgive Ourselves and Others as a Way to Move On 155

12 Step Six: We Claimed Our Strength and Embraced Our Resilience 163

13 Step Seven: We Became Ready to Overcome Intergenerational Trauma and Codependency Through Self-Awareness and Self-Parenting 171

14 Step Eight: We Left Behind Pessimism and Learned to Become Optimistic 181

15 Step Nine: We Learned to Make Amendsto Those We Hurt 189

16 Step Ten: We Learned to Live in the Present Moment 197

17 Step Eleven: We Sought Through Prayer and Meditation to Improve Our Relationship with God 205

18 Step Twelve: We Learned to Give Meaning to Our Suffering and Live as Examples of Love and Service to Others 213

Epilogue 223

Appendix-Resources and Websites: When Additional Supports Are Needed 227

References 237

Index 241

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