Compassion and Shame: When Your Best Interventions Seem to Backfire Little Lisa is sometimes crazed with fury and hatred and often directs this toward her foster mom, Susan. Susan has been learning a lot about shame and connection so she understands that Lisa is lashing out at her because she fears being hurt and being rejected. She recognizes that her behavior is an expression of her underlying needs and fears and therefore, Susan now knows she needs to respond to …

BUILDING EMPATHY THROUGH READING By Kenzi Dirks, M.A., R.C.C.   “We really emphasize saying sorry,” a concerned foster mother said to me, “when Milo hurts someone we always make him apologize.” “How is that working?” I inquired, genuinely curious. “I don’t think he means it,” she responded. Children who have experienced complex trauma can have increased difficulty in understanding their own emotional experience (https://www.complextrauma.ca/weeping-willow-helping-traumatized-child-find-feelings/).  To empathize—get inside another’s emotional experience—can prove even more challenging. Milo’s parents were very well intentioned …

By Kenzi Dirks, M.A., R.C.C. Twelve-year-old Willow sat on the corner of my office couch, handling some Play-Dough from my box of fidget toys. From the outside, no one would suspect that this intelligent and confident pre-teen was used by her biological father for sexual purposes. Having been adopted for almost two years, Willow’s parents felt like she was continuing to “bottle everything up”.  She just would not talk about how she was feeling. Furthermore, Willow’s parents were receiving school …