The most powerful mental health intervention that we know

“The parent-child connection is the most powerful mental health intervention known to mankind,” says trauma-specialist and best-selling author, Dr Bessel van der Kolk. It’s obvious when you come to think of it, but many of don’t. Dr van der Kolk’s lifetime of research, writing, teaching and practice provides the evidence and shows, in sometimes tragic detail, how The Body Keeps the Score.

His continuing work and publication focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people. He applies that knowledge to understand and help people build resilience and benefit from therapy that is based on the parent-child connection that follows us through life. It’s the most powerful mental health intervention that we know. He covers all this in his book: The Body Keeps the Score. It’s published in 36 languages.

Being able to feel safe with other people is probably ​the single most important aspect of mental health. Safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.

The image of the wave at the top is the work of artist: Barry Ross Smith

How childhood trauma shows in adult relationships

Kaytee Gillis, social worker psychotherapist and author of Invisible Bruises, covers the same area as Dr van der Kolk does, in a handy blog: 10 Ways Childhood Trauma Manifests in Adult Relationships.

  1. Fears of abandonment.
  2. Getting irritable or easily annoyed with others.
  3. Needing a lot of space or time to yourself.
  4. Unequal financial and household responsibilities.
  5. Settling and staying in a relationship much longer than its expiration date.
  6. Constant arguing or fighting in relationships, or avoiding conflict at all costs.
  7. Not knowing how to repair after fights.
  8. Serial monogamy.
  9. Worrying that you are settling, being fearful of committing, or avoiding relationships altogether.
  10. Trying to change their partner.
Kaytlyn Gillis
Better than a cure

This is common knowledge, but we sometimes forget it. When families separate, for example. The knowledge and skills that Dr Bessel van der Kolk and Kaytee Gillis describe for us, can go further than helping people after they’ve suffered. Raising awareness, support, help and intervention as early as possible for children and their families would be even better than a cure.