5/24/2019 Part 50 Claire’s Story: The Job Search can be so Tough

By   K. Hecht, A. Hosack &   P. Berman

If only I could do more to help Claire? She is feeling so hopeless because there are no advertisements in the newspaper for Dental Hygienists.

Mrs. Carson knew that Claire could figure out how to get a job on her own. But, that first job search was a complex process and she hated to see Claire so down after she had worked so hard in school. Claire was also taking it so personally. Rather than just realizing there weren’t job listings now, and everyone in school was in the same boat, Claire felt only she couldn’t get a job because she didn’t really deserve one.

It isn’t easy to walk the line between helping someone develop independence as an adult and providing appropriate support for tough things like a job search. Claire walked out of the bathroom and up the stairs. Her eyes were so red- she must have been crying again. That decided it.  Mrs. Carson would put on her advocate hat and call up the Dental Hygienist school and got some advice. The receptionist was friendly but not helpful. She said that local dentists would often put their job advertisements in the school bulletin; unfortunately, there were no new advertisements at this time.

Should she stop? No way. She was already involved and unsuccessful. She might as well try something else – maybe she could be involved and successful this time. She brainstormed how she could advocate for Claire. Twenty-minutes later, she had an idea. She would call Shelly, that young woman she had tried to get Claire to make friends with last year. Was calling Shelly, a young woman Claire had shown no interest in for more than a year, crossing the line into interference? Or, since Shelly was a Dental Hygienist, was it being a good advocate?

Do I still have Shelly’s phone number somewhere? Where is it, I must find it!

“Yes! Here it is!” She didn’t realize it but Mrs. Carson said this out loud. Mr. Carson was walking by and asked her what she was doing. “I don’t know if this is interfering or not, but I am going to call that friendly woman Shelly who helped Claire apply to school. I know it’s been a long time, but she was so nice; it’s worth a try. I will wait until Claire is at work at the drug store. She won’t have to know anything about it if Shelly doesn’t want to help her.

Claire came home that night to find Shelly and her daughter playing games with Davy in the living room. Claire was delighted to see Shelly, she liked her so much but had been afraid to call her. These words burst out of her mouth the moment their eyes met; Shelly began to laugh.

“Why are you laughing?” Claire said, suddenly looking and sounding very serious.

“I thought you didn’t call because you didn’t like me and it made me feel bad,” Shelly said, hugging her knees as she sat on the floor.

“Of course, I liked you it was just…”

“You were afraid to call. Why?”

“It’s hard to explain but I always expect people to say no to me. If I had called you, and you said no, then …”

“Don’t worry about it,” Shelly said, “I understand you got a great score on your hygienist exam!” Claire turned red with embarrassment. “What’s the blush for? You deserve to feel proud; you gotten points more points than I did!  That test was hard. Mrs. Carson told me you have started your job search. I have written some stuff down for you to help. The first is this website:


I found my current job at it. It’s designed to alert you to jobs in your area or a few hours away if you are willing to travel. Don’t feel bad if at first you only get a temporary job. That happens a lot. I started by going to work someplace for a day, when the regular hygienist was sick, or for a couple months if someone was out on pregnancy leave. Every time I went anywhere, I looked at it carefully to see if it was the kind of place, I might feel comfortable working. At my favorite temp job, in a small three- person office, I got a call, a year later, asking me to fill a permanent job; they had really liked my work but just hadn’t had a position to offer me until then.”

If I hadn’t gotten a job my first few months, I would have given up. Shelly is so brave. I hope I can be like her.

“Another thing to do is go to this other site:


This site will help you develop an on-line resume that dentists and other employers can look at. If they like your resume, they call you for an interview.

“Wouldn’t it be scary to have a job for just a day? You would never learn where everything was?”

“Well, that’s true, “Shelly said. “But, I liked doing the temporary jobs because it gave me practice talking to dentists and so I had more confidence in myself. It also helped me figure out I wouldn’t want to work at a big office. There are more people to be friends with but that seems to come with more drama- more fights between the staff; I hated that.”

Shelly noticed that Claire was sweating and asked if she would like help getting on the websites and looking around.

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5/22/2019 Part 49 Claire’s Story: Claire Shares her Nightmare

By   P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht,


It’s risky.  What will she think? You must do it. You can’t chance really hurting Davy.

It was very real, yet very weird but Claire was arguing with herself. This two-sided, one-person argument had been going on since early this morning. There was no one to distract her from this now because Mr. Carson hadn’t entered the building since Claire had jumped out of the car right at the street corner. This had become the norm since the first time Claire did it.  Mr. Carson had gotten use to rushing in to the drug store, by the parking lot, and getting a newspaper to read, before he went in to wait for Claire’s appointment with Dr. Berman to end.

Claire was still in the waiting room, arguing with herself, when Dr. Berman opened her door and invited her back; it happened right at the moment when her “you have to tell” voice had just started up again. This must be a good omen. Claire would talk about her last nightmare. She started slowly, pausing a lot. Dr. Berman was very quiet as Claire began to talk about beating Davy. As she progressed deeper into the abuse-dream, tears began to stream down her face. Dr. Berman handed her a tissue.

Claire looked at her in surprise, “How can you help me when I am telling you how terrible I was? Just like my father!”

“Were you being just like your father?”

“Yes, everything was the same!”

“Did your father start crying when the beating was over, and he saw you covered in blood?”

Claire looked up with a puzzled look on her face, “Of course not. He would kick me and tell me I got what I deserved.”

“Did you kick Davy once you noticed the blood?”

“No, I started screaming and then I heard Mrs. Carson’s voice telling me to wake up.”

“What happened next?”

“I saw Davy was scared. As soon as I got myself under control, I played a game with him to calm him down.”

“Did you ever see your dad try to calm himself down?” Claire shook her head “no”. “Did he ever notice how terrified you were and try to help you calm down?” Claire shook her head “no”.

“What did he do?” (two- minute pause)

“He locked me down in the basement because he knew I was afraid of the dark.”

“Did your dad ever start to cry, like you are crying now, because of how terrible he felt for hurting you?”

“No. (pause) My dad was not the type to cry.” (five-minute silence, Claire stopped crying) “My dad was the type to yell, kick, scream, and beat.”

“You don’t sound like your dad at all.” Claire burst into renewed crying and Dr. Berman sat quietly with her until the crying stopped. “What are you thinking about Claire?” (1-minute pause)

“I needed to use two more things, besides staring at my fish, to calm myself down. I was so completely terrified when I woke up, a 10 on my emotion scale.”

“Did Mrs. Carson help you?”

“No. (two-minute silence, very softly) I did it myself.”

“I am impressed you could do this yourself Claire. (1-minute pause) Mrs. Carson must have been proud to see that you could calm yourself down and then be able to calm Davy down.”

“Yes, she gave me a big smile.”

“You don’t look happy as you say this.”

“I am still having nightmares. I must get over this. (pause) I am safe now.”

“You are safe living with the Carsons. Your whole childhood was filled with traumatic experiences piled up one on top of each other. Your mind and spirit have a right to need more time to heal.”

“If I was strong enough, I wouldn’t need all this time.”

“If you weren’t stronger than most people, you wouldn’t have survived this level of abuse. (5-minute pause). You are so strong that you want to be perfect at everything. A perfect foster daughter, perfect mother, probably a perfect dental hygienist.” Claire starts to laugh and then makes a goofy “Davy” face at Dr. Berman.


“You have such a great laugh. Thanks for sharing it with me. I like that smile on your face.(pause) I want to see it more often please.”

Claire is struggling with demanding too much of herself; highly critical thoughts keep demanding more of her. Learning to control how these thoughts stream through her head is another type of regulation she needs to learn. We all have these negative thoughts from time to time. But, if we have negative thoughts more often than the positive ones that encourage us, we can get trapped in a negative whirlwind. Do you ever have positive thoughts like, “You did it? Wow, who would have thought I could do this. I can succeed if I don’t give up.”  If you are curious about how your thoughts can influence your behavior, consider reading the article in Psychology Today below.




5/20/2019 Part 48 Claire’s Story: She feels the blood dripping off her hands.

By  K. Hecht, P. Berman, & A. Hosack


I hurt my Davy again. I hurt him bad. There is blood everywhere. How could I do it?

Claire had come upstairs from her part-time job at the grocery store. She was covered in sweat and exhausted from putting food on the shelves. What did she find, when she just wanted to strip and take a cold shower? Davy cutting up her new diploma from Dental Hygiene School. She was supposed to hang this on her wall at work! This was her proof she was really a hygienist. What was she supposed to do now? Davy was smiling, he had stuck the school seal from her diploma on his nose. He started laughing and pulling back on the remains of her diploma as she tried to save some of it; it ripped in half.

Davy is going to pay for this! Claire dragged him to his feet and shoved him down the stairs ahead of her. He had stopped laughing and was now kicking and screaming as he tried to get away from her. She had him tight by the back of the shirt and they were alone in the house; there was no one to rush out and save him. At the turn off to the living room, Davy tried again to get away. She dragged him back to the basement door and kept him quick marching down to the bottom of the stairs. She flung him down in the usual spot, grabbed her discipline belt from where it was hidden behind the wood stack and raised it high above her head. She would teach him; she began to slam the belt down. Davy started screaming even before the belt touched him. This only made her whip the belt down harder on his back.

He had finally gotten the point. Things were quiet. Blessed quiet. She gave him one more swat for good measure!

Davy showed no sign of movement. No whimper of sound. At peace, Claire leaned down to pull him to his feet. He was a dead weight. She yelled at him to stand up and then looked down at her hands; they were covered in blood. Suddenly screams began again – her screams.black-background-blood-bloody-673862

“Claire, Claire wake up. You are all right. Claire, you are scaring Davy, please wake up,” Mrs. Carson was standing by the head of Claire’s bed. She was holding Davy by the hand. Claire’s eyes could see now. She could tell Davy was alright – there was no sign of blood, but he was as white as the sheet pooled at her feet.

I am terrified. Not worried. Not scared. My feelings are out-of-control! I need help! !

Claire suddenly remembered she could help herself. She glued her eyes to her fish. He was swimming around calmly as usual.

It’s not working. It’s not working! Why not? Why not?

Claire sees her feeling chart laying down on her desk. She remembered that she needed to rate her level of fear. The higher the fear, the more steps she would need to control this more intense emotion.

Terror is a 10 – the top of the scale. The fish works when I am around six. I must do more. I’ll try exercise.

Davy watches curiously as his mom does sit-ups. He then sees her doing some strange type of breathing. Now, he sees her watching her fish; he sits next to her and watches it with her.

I can feel my heart beat. Everything inside me feels quiet.

Claire looks down at Davy and sees that he still looks worried. “My Davy, how kind of you to come give me a hug after my nightmare?” Davy immediately folds her into his arms, and she covers the top of his head with kisses. “I am so sorry Davy, I dreamed I was being eaten by a purple dinosaur.” “Mommy, that’s silly, all my dinosaurs are brown and black.” “Your dinosaurs would never eat me Davy, it was this strange purple dinosaur with big teeth.” Davy open his mouth wide- “Yes, just like your big teeth, help, help save me Mrs. Carson.” Davy was laughing now and hiding behind Mrs. Carson.

Claire looked up at her clock. It was 6 a.m. She said to Davy, “It is a little early to have breakfast now. Would you like me to snuggle you in my bed till 7 a.m.?” “Yeah,” shrieked Davy. Sleeping with his mom was a rare treat. Claire looked up to see Mrs. Carson smiling at her. Claire got into bed, Davy snuggled in and Mrs. Carson covered them both with the quilt. Davy fell asleep almost immediately.

My Davy can sleep peacefully. I have done something right.

Do Claire’s nightmares seem “normal to you?” Have you ever wondered if she might be having night terrors? According to the National Institute of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493222/

Most people with night terrors are between the ages of 3-7. Someone having a night terror might scream and thrash around. Their eyes might be open, but they still wouldn’t be seeing what was happening in the room; they would be deep asleep. It is very difficult to wake someone who is having a night terror. It is hard to comfort them as they appear unaware of anything out-side their dream. A night terror might last from 10-20 minutes. Once it is over, the person who had it might fall back to sleep suddenly and would be unlikely to remember what happened.

Claire could be having a night terror but at her age, it would be unusual. Is Claire dissociating from reality? According to the Mental Health America website:

“Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. Dissociation seems to fall on a continuum of severity. Mild dissociation would be like daydreaming, getting “lost” in a book, or when you are driving down a familiar stretch of road and realize that you do not remember the last several miles. A severe and more chronic form of dissociation is seen in the disorder Dissociative Identity Disorder, once called Multiple Personality Disorder, and other Dissociative Disorders.”

To read more about what dissociation means go to:



5/10/2019 Part 47 Claire’s Story: What Is Larry learning in prison?

By    A. Hosack, K. Hecht, & P. Berman

All this empty time is getting on my nerves. Am I seeing things? I don’t want to go crazy!

Larry was in solitary confinement due to the fight he got into during the rainstorm. It had now been a week and he was still in isolation. He was angry, lonely, and desperate. His strong negative feelings made it more likely that once he got out, he would have trouble maintaining control and staying out of trouble.  It might help Larry to learn how to understand and control his emotions as Claire was. Larry had never heard of either of these skills or that some people used them.

Larry has had nightmares every night he has slept in solitary confinement. When guards had looked in to check on him at night, he never cried out but was always thrashing around wildly on his bed. There was no way for the guards to know that he was screaming in his dreams. He had learned not to do this. Making noises during sleep time was taboo. Noise early on had gotten him punches from his cell mate.

What was Larry learning in prison? He had been sentenced by the court for hitting Claire. Since his “consequence” for punching her started, Larry had been sexually assaulted by his cell mate and he had been a punching bag for other offenders. His only way to protect himself, was to become affiliated, for the first time in his life, with a gang.

Assume Larry is released from prison in a month. Should Claire be scared? What about other people of his community? His only contact with a healthier world has been Claire’s letters. Prisoners who get visits from family have been found less likely to reoffend; so, the letters might be helping him. While it might be good for Larry to see Claire, would it be good for her?

Is that a noise? Yes, the door is opening. Stay cool. Look down and don’t say a word or they won’t let you out.

Larry had his feelings bottled up tight and did just what the guard said every second of his walk from solitary out into the prison yard. Martin rushed over to him, patted him on the back and said that there was a job waiting for him. The job was to take some dope from the gang leader and distribute it to the prisoners who could afford it. For this service, every inmate knew that Larry was “protected,” and tried to stay out of his way. The guy that Larry fought with, that sent him to solitary, had ended up a bleeding wreck sent to the hospital.  Larry really owed the gang and had come to feel very loyal towards its members.

Martin could see Larry was in an explosive state. He told Larry that he had found a great spot – the prison laundry, to get his rage out. Martin lead him down into the basement and showed him huge piles of clothes waiting to be distributed. They both spent a quick ten minutes, punching the life out of the huge piles of clothes.  They both felt sweaty but more relaxed; but their tension was still bubbling below the service.

It was time for the letter delivery. They both rushed back upstairs. Would Larry or Martin get something? Martin sometimes got pictures his kids had drawn. He had even had a visitor once. Larry had no connection with life outside of prison except through mail. He suddenly smiled, one of his big, charming smiles that had melted Claire’s heart; he had a new letter from Claire.

She hasn’t forgotten me. I am not alone. I could even stand to hear something about that brat Davy!  For a second, Larry smiled at the idea that Davy would draw him a picture, like one of Martin’s kids; he wasn’t aware he smiled.

Larry quickly put the letter in his pocket. The first time he read it, he wanted to be alone. Only after reading it a few times would he bring it to the reading club; this new letter would show them he wasn’t a loser – whose whole life was nothing but a pile of junk.


Claire sometimes has daydreams that somehow, Larry will learn how to be more patient in prison so he can be a good father to Davy. There is some hope that Larry could make positive changes in prison. The Rand corporation has found that if Larry gets any type of educational program while he is incarcerated, he will be 43% less likely to reoffend after he is released. He will also be more likely to get a job so he can help support Davy.

While Larry could have a better life after his release from prison, his additional exposure to violence while incarcerated has further increased his risk for engaging in violent behavior in the future.  His only job experience has been as a bouncer in a bar; in some ways, this job rewarded him for being “good” at violence.  What might help Larry?

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP)is a nonprofit organization that connects released felons with executives and entrepreneurs. The program focuses on teaching leadership and innovation skills, showing increased wages after release and lower recidivism rates.  To learn more, visit: https://www.pep.org

5/8/2019 Part 46 Claire’s Story: Larry hasn’t been getting letters

By    P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht

Another week without a single letter! What is going on! Are those Carsons preventing my Claire from writing me!! Is it that therapist’s fault!!!!

Larry kept rocketing back and forth between scorching rage and bitter loneliness.  He had been waiting for three weeks and still no new letter from Claire. He had been forced join the pathetic other guys in his reading group who had nothing to offer but re-reading old letters. Those other men, the ones with the new letters- were obviously laughing at him behind his back. After the group had dispersed towards the cafeteria, rain began pouring down. Everyone started pushing towards the door into the cafeteria.

Larry was almost inside when somehow the whole group got shoved backwards.  A mass of them fell backward and Larry’s head hit the cement floor hard. It had hurt like hell; it couldn’t have been an accident. He put crooked his arm around the throat of the guy who had fallen on top of him and began to choke him hard. That was the last thing he remembered until two guards were out in the rain man- handling him; other members of Larry’s gang added their punches to the mix. The guy who shoved Larry was sent to the infirmary. Larry was shoved into a solitary confinement cell. He just lay on the floor in his soaking wet clothes lost to the here-and-now.

If Claire drops me, I will have no one. They could leave me in here for life. No one would care. I would be lost forever.


Larry had fallen all the way down the black tunnel in his mind. It had appeared suddenly, when he was little. Something terrible had happened. He didn’t remember what. But somehow, he just knew that he was safe, if he stayed at the bottom of the tunnel and just looked up at the world. If he tried to climb out of the tunnel alone, -pain, pain beyond description would result. If he wasn’t alone, if Claire was there, he could climb out of the tunnel. He could shove her behind him, jump on her and get a bounce so that he could grab the rim and pull himself out; this was his easiest road out- he felt so strong as he pulled himself over the rim. The harder route was for him to slowly edge his way up the tunnel, pulling her carefully behind him so he didn’t lose his balance and fall back in. Sometimes, if he was careful enough, he could get them both out, gasping for breath but out of the tunnel.

Sitting at the bottom of the blackness, he kept searching for answers in the last letter he had received from her. Claire had mentioned starting therapy. That was plain stupid to begin with, Claire wasn’t crazy and didn’t need to see some stupid shrink to tell her that. Claire said the Carsons wanted Claire to talk about her nightmares. Those were just none of their business Larry thought, with his fists clenching and unclenching in fury. Of course, Claire had bad dreams. Of course, she screamed in her sleep sometimes. Everyone did, Claire was as normal as he was and didn’t need to talk to some idiot who would mess around with her head.

Larry knew all about Claire’s dreams. he was the only one Claire had ever shared them with. He had the power to stop her shakes just but holding her tight and stroking her hair.  This was just further evidence that they were fated for each other. Claire was his and he was hers; no matter what that stupid judge had thought.

Larry had shared all his nightmares with Claire’s but not his most horrifying one. This one he had kept down deep inside.  In it he was little and was making mud pies in the backyard – covered in filth, alone, but smiling. Suddenly he was being ranked forward onto his belly and a strong hand was pulling down his pants while another hand was holding the back of his neck down against the mud. He could barely breathe; mud was oozing into his nose. This mouth hurt for smashing down hard on a rock. He was being hurt, terribly hurt, something hard was ripping his behind open. He couldn’t scream.

A roar of voices- his father and uncle Fred were running out of the house; they pulled the hands away that had been holding Davy still.  He rolled over groaning in the mud and saw his dad and uncle Jim punching their neighbor over and over until he stopped fighting back. Then they carried him to the door of his trailer, threw him in, and then followed. It seemed to take just an instant and Davy saw them come running out of the trailer and slam the door. As they made a grab for Davy, he heard his uncle Jim say, “it’s burning really good now.”  Uncle Fred saw Larry was listening and slapped him hard, “you didn’t see a thing, hear me!” Larry nodded. He was carried into the house and shoved into bed. No one ever talked about what happened. No one ever talked about the burned- out shell next door.

If his dad ever caught him staring where the trailer had once been his dad would say, “don’t say I never done anything for you.”

Larry and Claire do share many adverse experiences in common. They have been both the victims and perpetrators of violence against others. There is no one profile of the abused child. If you want to be able to recognize the many different warning signs that a child around you has been traumatized go to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and read The 12 Core Concepts: Concepts for Understanding Traumatic Stress Responses in Children and Families: https://www.nctsn.org/



5/6/2019 Part 45 Claire’s Story: Claire’s Congratulation Party

By   K. Hecht, P. Berman, & A. Hosack,


I don’t like this. I know I must be safe, but ….. I need to scream! Why isn’t any sound coming out!

It was the day of her party. Ms. Alexandra and others would be arriving at 3 p.m. To build excitement and surprise for Claire and Davy, the Carsons sent them off to the park at 1 p.m. so they wouldn’t know what food was being made or how the house was being decorated. Claire and Davy were told when they came back into the house they were to come to the back door, ring the bell and wait.  Mr. And Mrs. Carson answered the bell almost immediately, deftly pulled a black knit hat down over each of their heads covering their eyes and led them in the house. They were carefully escorted up the stairs and into their room by two hands holding onto their waists and guiding them.

Davy was giggling the whole time. It was such spooky fun to have a hat down pulled over his eyes. He especially loved it when he got picked up and carried, upside down, up the stairs. Claire heard him laughing and tried to laugh too. She just couldn’t. The sudden darkness had terrified her. Even though she knew they wouldn’t stop her from pulling the hat off, it would spoil their fun, so she didn’t try. They had no idea that rather than enjoying herself, it brought back horrible flashbacks for Claire to have hands on her body forcing her to move forward into darkness.

I’m safe. It’s a game.  I hate this. How can I be terrified of people I love!

They had stopped moving. Mr. Carson dragged the hats off their eyes – they were safe in their room. He and Mrs. Carson rushed out and shut the door saying, “Now don’t come out till we call you that everything is ready!” “Isn’t this fun mommy?” Davy shrieked as he ran around the room so full of excitement that he literally collided with a dresser and fell on his butt. Davy was so startled that he didn’t even have time to cry before Claire had picked him up and began changing his dirty park clothes for the clean party clothes that Mrs. Carson had laid on the beds.

Davy stroked his mommy’s face and realized she wasn’t smiling. “Aren’t I being a good boy mommy?”

burning tree

He wasn’t smiling anymore. He looked anxious. Claire forced herself to concentrate on his voice as he talked. Claire literally shook her head a few times. She was not in the basement. Her skin wasn’t melting away under her dad’s lit cigarette. She was in her room. She was safe. Davy was in front of her, looking sad. She forced a smile on her face. “No, No, my silly one. You are the most wonderful little boy in the world, and I love dressing you up in my favorite color blue!” Davy sighed softly as she took his dirty t-shirt off and put on the sky-blue shirt that was on the bed. The moment she had finished the last button, Davy was running around the room again asking one question after another about what food might be downstairs waiting to be gobbled up. “Hurry up mommy, change your blouse. I am so hungry for cake mommy.”

If only I could feel happy like that. This party is for me. Everyone will expect me to be happy. Why can’t I be happy?

As Claire finished closing the last button, Davy began to drag her around in a circle saying, “we match mommy we match.” Davy’s sweet voice had brought her fully back from her daymare. She was in her room – not in a basement. She was living with the Carsons – not her parents.  Claire had never told them about her many nights in a smoky black basement, unable to see a thing. How could they know that covering her eyes would bring horrible memories flooding back to her? They must never know.

Mrs. Carson knocked on the door and called out,” Everything is ready for you now. Come on down stairs!” Davy grabbed Claire’s hand and pulled her out the door. If she hadn’t pulled back, they might have gone tumbling down the stairs in his rush to check for cake. He looked up at her and said, “I love you so much mommy. The cake is really all for you, but I know you will share. You are so good at sharing!” Claire smiled back at Davy and they started down the stairs.

I must be doing some things right. Davy was a good listener at the park and look how happy he is now! He is more than happy; he is exuberant!

Exuberant was a new word she had just learned from her daily feeling chart assignment. Claire was to review her list of feeling words three times a day. Then, she was to note in her log book what bodily sensations she could feel now and then try to pick the feeling word that might best fit these “internal” body feelings. After the first three days of assignments, Claire had already noticed that Davy had different smiles and different ways of holding his body if he was a little “happy” if he was very happy or “elated” or if he was so happy, he looked like he might pee his pants – “exuberant”.

How did she feel? As she walked down the stairs, she felt her stomach was tight like a rock. She was having trouble getting her legs to step down the staircase smoothly. Her skin felt clammy. Claire decided she felt “scared”. She was more than “anxious” but no longer “terrified” because she could see where she was going and knew she was safe.

As they turned to go into the living room, Claire and Davy saw the Carsons, Ms. Alexandra, and their neighbors from across the street. They were all clapping and shouting out, “congratulations Claire!”  Everyone who cared about her, were in this room right now. They were all smiling. Claire suddenly lost all signs of fear. She began to smile. Davy looked like he was peeing his pants as he jumped up and down shouting, “Mommy look, the table is covered with presents!”

For a moment, Claire felt the smiles and the presents fill her up. For a while, she didn’t feel like a waste of space.

Consider reading more about the impact of trauma on children, and how to help people recover from trauma at: www.acesconnection.org


5/3/2019 Part 44 Claire’s Story: She can get a job!

By  A. Hosack,  K. Hecht, & P. Berman


I passed! I am not stupid!

The letter had finally come. Claire had received a score of 87% on the National Dental Hygienist Test!  The Carsons were so proud of Claire. The letter had come at the perfect time, the week before the party. Now, they thought, Claire could relax and enjoy her party. On the outside, Claire’s life seems ready to take off like a rocket. What a success story she has! She is the first member of her family to graduate high school and now she is the first to attain a graduate degree and a license to practice. Her family has been living below the poverty line for generations. As a dental Hygienist, she and Davy should never go hungry or without a nice place to live.


In high school, Claire had always envied the people who come could in for burgers while she could only serve them. Once she had a job, Claire could afford to have other people serve her burgers. Searching for a job was scary.  She had never searched for a job before. In high school, Larry had gotten her the waitress job; the only job she had ever had.

I don’t know what I am doing. Everyone else is way ahead of me. I am always losing!

Claire assumed all the other students already had jobs. She listened in sometimes, on their conversations and they sounded so confident. School had taught her a lot about doing her future job but hardly anything about how to get it. The only practical thing she had learned was how to write a resume.  The Carsons weren’t sure what she should do either. They thought a good place to start was to look in the job advertisements in the local newspaper and online. They said she should probably send a letter along with her resume to all the jobs that were posted for hygienists.

Whenever she let them see how scared she was, they always reassured her that she had a great future. They loved her so much! It didn’t make any sense, but they did. Claire kept sitting at the computer staring off into space. What should she say in the letter? Mr. Carson suggested she ask one of her teachers.

How can I bother a teacher like that? They are done with me. I am about to graduate. They must have seen through me by now and seen what a waste of space I am. Most of the other students were probably worried about getting a job too. However, Claire is at an additional disadvantage. Her family’s history of poor employment means that she never could just soak in, “the process” of being successful, like many of her colleagues.

Many people don’t get the first, second, or even third job they apply for. She doesn’t know that. What do you say when they call on the phone asking to talk to you? What do you wear for an interview? The Improving Access to Good Jobs for Parents Act would help parents with low incomes as they go learn this process. This would include basic career counseling as well as provide intensive support to Claire as a new person entering the job market.

Have you ever been a political advocate? Consider supporting lower income individuals like Claire get employment help by telling your senator or representative to support this bill. By clicking on the link below, you can learn more about the “Improving Access to Good Jobs for Parents Act”, like many bills, it died in 2018. However, there is a new on-going attempt to get it passed: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr5888 

You can click on the “write or call” button at the top left of the screen and within five minutes, have supported H.R. 5888 (115th)

5/1/2019 Part 43 Claire’s Story: Good Mommy vs Bad….who will win?

By   P. Berman, A. Hosack, & K. Hecht

You have ruined my life. I will teach you. No waste of space like you will stand in my way!

The nightmare felt so real! Claire couldn’t even recognize herself. The bad mommy was so powerful- like a combination of both her mom and dad. She swung her belt down hard on Davy, cutting him to the bone – like her dad. She left a bleeding, whimpering Davy alone in the basement – calling him a waste of space as she slammed the door shut – just like her mom. No. No. I want to be like the Carsons not them!

bad mommy

Claire was sweating buckets under her clothes- her shirt was clinging to her body like another skin. She was alone in the waiting room. She was having a flash back to her last nightmare. If Mr. Carson was there, he would have held her hand and she would never have re-lived last night’s dream. But…he wasn’t here. She had suddenly told Mr. Carson she didn’t want to waste his time and jumped out of the car at a red light and run the last block into the building. This change in plan worried Mr. Carson.  Something was wrong. He parked the car as fast as he could and rushed to the waiting room. Claire’s coat was hanging up. Good she was here but…what was going on?

A few minutes early, Dr. Berman had opened her office door and said, “Good morning Claire, come on in.” Claire had rushed in, too stressed to just walk, but then she sat down and didn’t say anything- what could she say? (2-minute silence). Claire was scratching at her legs and looking miserable.

“Claire, you seem to have something on your mind. We can talk about it (1-minute silence) or, you could just tell me about something that happened this week you feel comfortable sharing.”

I need to tell her about the wagon. No, I can’t tell her about the wagon. I am terrified of myself!

Claire couldn’t tell anyone she had abused Davy but dragging him by this arm and then thrusting him into the wagon. She knew it must have really hurt when his head banged into the metal handle. She knew the bad mommy would win if she didn’t get help but what could she say that wouldn’t make Ms. Alexandra take Davy away from her?

Claire decided. “I lost my temper with Davy in the Park over the weekend.  I don’t ever want to do this again.”  Claire then stared at Dr. Berman, blinking her eyes quickly trying not to cry.

“Your eyes look so moist Claire, it’s okay to cry in here.”

Five minutes of silence went by with Dr. Berman silently attending to Claire as she cried in the chair and held tightly to Dr. Berman’s tissue box.  “We can sit quietly together for the whole session if you want. Or, whenever you are ready, you can tell me more about losing your temper with Davy?”  Claire wiped her eyes, “I started out just right,” Claire said desperately. “I told Davy clearly it was time to clean up. I gave him a countdown to three when he wasn’t cleaning up and began to put his toys away for him, ignoring his whining.” (I-minute silence) “He didn’t listen. He threw sand in my eyes and ….” (1-minute silence)

“Sand really hurts when it gets into the eyes Claire. I can understand why something would go wrong after that happened. (I-minute silence) “Can you tell me what went wrong?” “Davy screamed he didn’t love me. He began to take his toys out of the wagon where I had put them. I felt so angry and so hurt I just yelled back really meanly,” Claire whispered. It wasn’t true but maybe it was enough to get the help she needed.

“Claire, you did a lot right with Davy at the park. But, raising children is complicated and Davy is a spunky little boy. He is going to keep testing you, just like he did at the park. Can he be your mom or are you his?” (1- minute silence)

“I am the mom. He is too little to know what is good for him.”

“Absolutely, you know much more about what Davy needs than he does. He needs more control over his ability to focus his attention, so he listens to- most of the time. He needs more control over his feelings- so he can talk about not wanting to stop playing rather than throwing sand – most of the time. He needs more control over his thoughts so that he will stop and think, before making a decision – most of the time.”

“I want him to do those things all the time,” Claire said in despair.

“Davy can’t be a perfect little boy, just like you can’t be a perfect mom. No one can be perfect. We have to aim at a rational middle ground.”

“How do we start, I need to learn fast,” Claire said.

“Step one, is we focus on you. Parents have to have a huge reservoir of extra self-control to stay in charge even when their kids are behaving very badly. Then, we add Davy to the plan.”

Claire sat up in her chair. This plan sounded good. It would strengthen her good mommy so she could keep that bad one pushed down.

“I will get some practice materials ready for you next week. Today, why don’t you take this list of feelings and study it. Notice that there are ten levels of each feeling. We want to recognize our feelings when they are at the low level there. That is when they are easy to recognize and acknowledge while being the patient mom you want to be.  It was normal that you would feel angry at Davy when he threw sand in your face. Feeling angry isn’t the problem. It is feeling so angry that you don’t act like the mother you want to be that is the problem.”

To learn more about emotions and how to regulate them go to:  https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/dbt-emotion-regulation-skills.pdf


4/29/2019 Part 42 Claire’s Story: Claire has shattered

By   K. Hecht, P. Berman, & A. Hosack


Davy is being so stubborn. He is not listening. He is ignoring me when I say he has to clean up!

It was a beautiful day and Claire had taken Davy to the park to play. Everything had gone well for two hours but now they needed to leave. Claire had to go shopping, make dinner, put Davy to bed, and start working on her job resume for her class tomorrow.

Claire said clearly, “Davy, if you do not put your toys back in our wagon, I will not give you ice cream tonight before bed.” Davy didn’t want to leave the park. He was having a great time playing in the sand box. He loved sand. It was so squishy under his fingers and he could cover his legs in it. He heard his mom telling him to clean up but was pretending he didn’t. Claire counted to three, which was his signal he was about to lose his ice cream.” At the count of three, Claire began putting his toys away.

“Stop that, Stop that, Stop that!” Davy said in a loud voice pounding his legs down in the sand along with each “stop”. Claire was getting very frustrated, but she knew what to do and just continued to put his toys away. When his last bucket and shovel was in the wagon, Claire said,” three”. Davy stopped pounding his legs. He suddenly realized he had lost his ice cream. He loved ice cream. He was so mad he screamed out, “I hate you mommy!” and threw sand in her face.

The sand got into Claire’s eyes and made them really hurt. As she tried to help herself, Davy started grabbing his toys and throwing them back into the sand.  That was more than she could take. She could barely see for the tears streaming down her face, she shattered….

broken glass

Claire dragged a crying Davy up out of the sandbox ignoring his whimper that she was hurting his arm. At the wagon, she shoved him hard down and his back hit the metal handle of the wagon. He looked up at her face and instantly became very quiet. Claire dragged the wagon back to the house, leaving all Davey’s toys behind.

Reaching the garage, Mr. Carson came out to help. He noticed the sand in Claire’s hair and her streaming eyes and knew immediately what was wrong. “You go ahead and get that sand out of your face,” he said with concern, “I will get Davy back into the house.” Mr. Carson looked down at the very quiet Davy and took him out of the wagon and put him back on his feet.  Mr. Carson asked Davy what happened. Davy just whispered, “I don’t get ice cream and mom left my toys at the park.” He burst into tears.

Claire put her face in a sink of water and finally got the sand out of her eyes, but they were still pounding because the water itself didn’t feel good in her eyes. Claire looked at herself and saw the huge red rings that were her eyes. She shook the sand out of her hand and then cleaned up the bathroom.  When Mrs. Carson came in her room to say she had made dinner, Claire was crying and staring at her fish. “What happened?”

I can’t tell Mrs. Carson about the bad mother in me. I will have to make something up. I don’t want to lie to Mrs. Carson. I love her so much.

Claire looked up at Mrs. Carson and tried to smile- but it just didn’t work. “Did Davy give you a hard time at the park?” Mrs. Carsons asked.  Claire just nodded and wiped her eyes. “Every mother has bad days Claire, don’t be too hard on yourself. Let’s try to have a nice dinner and maybe we can watch something funny on TV after Davy is in bed?”

Claire did her best to pretend everything was normal during dinner.  Davy could tell his mommy was still mad at him because she never gave him a playful nudge during dinner. He was very obedient when Claire told him it was time to go to bed. She held his hand as they walked up the stairs, but she didn’t look at him or smile.

Once he was in bed, she asked him what story he wanted. Davy whispered, “I’m bad. I don’t deserve a story.” No. This was not right. Kids misbehaved sometimes. Claire had learned that at Head Start. Claire didn’t want Davy to think he was bad. She pulled him gently into a big hug, “Davy, you aren’t bad. You are a good little boy who had trouble listening today.” Tomorrow, you can be a good listener and earn your ice cream.”

Davy was so relieved his mommy still loved him. “Mommy I love you so much!  Can you read me Good Night Moon?” Claire sighed with relief. Davy was okay, her good mom was back. She read him the book twice, the way he liked it, tucked him in, and then went downstairs. She told the Carsons most of what happened, but not about shoving Davy into the wagon.

I can’t let them know about the bad mommy in me. I have to fight her down deep inside me so she can’t ever get out!”

No one can be a perfect parent.  If you ever feel discouraged, or know someone who is, consider this:





4/26/2019 Part 41 Claire’s Story: Claire is falling fast – is this therapy?

By   A. Hosack, & K. Hecht, P. Berman


Claire was falling fast, she could feel the crash coming. The ground was getting closer. She would hit the tree tops, and these would kill her. Would that be for the best- finally, relief from her pain? Yet, Davy needed her- she couldn’t die, she had to hold on. She looked up at Dr. Berman who was just sitting there quietly, watching her.

Was this therapy? Was this supposed to help her?  Why did she feel like she wasn’t falling any more when she saw Dr. Berman quietly waiting for her?

“Claire, can you tell me what’s going through your mind? (1-minute silence) You looked terrified again. (2-minute silence). What we are doing right now isn’t helping you. Do you have any idea what might work?”

“If I was home,” Claire whispered, “I would watch my fish swim in its bowl until I calmed down.”

“Close your eyes and imagine you are home.”  Claire squeezed her eyes shut. “Try to relax your eye lids so you can see your fish bowl up a head in your imagination.  You are walking slowly towards it through the house, happy to know you are almost there. Ah, you have reached it. Describe what you are doing.”

“I am kneeling down on the floor, so the fish will be at my eye level. (1-minute silence) Claire begins to smile. My beautiful gold fish is just swimming around and around. It seems to be looking out at me now, hungry. Can I feed it?”

“Of course, it is your fish. You are the one who knows what it needs.”

“I sprinkle just a little at the top of the bowl. My fish will eat till the food is all gone even if I give it too much to eat. Mrs. Carson taught me how to give it just the right amount. It is so cute to see how it opens its mouth and seems to suck the food in. One piece gone, another, another, my fish has eaten it all and seems content now to just swim around and around.”

“How does it swim?”

“It moves its fins back and forth, so easily, so graceful; I want to learn how to swim someday.”  (2-minute silence)

“Claire, as you watch your fish swim around the bowl, do you think you could tell me what is going through your mind?” (2-minute silence)

What should I say? I don’t know what to say! (sweat is pouring down Claire’s face)

“Sometimes people think they can only talk about the worst things in the world when they come in here.” (two minutes of silence) “It is up to you, but maybe instead you should tell me something that is going well for you right now?”

“I had a session at school where I cleaned someone’s teeth. He told me I did a good job, that it didn’t hurt at all.”

“That’s great Claire. Did he tell you anything else?”

“He is a custodian of a department store and he doesn’t have any dental insurance. He had begun to lose some of his teeth. He had known about our school clinic, but he didn’t want to be an experiment for someone like me.”

“It sounds like he was afraid a student hygienist might hurt him?” Dr. Berman said.

“Yes, but he figured pain was better than losing more teeth, so he finally came in.” (1-minute pause) “He asked the receptionist on the way out if he could schedule another cleaning with me in a few months!” Claire was rubbing her legs with her hands.

“That’s quite a compliment, but you are rubbing your legs like you aren’t sure?” (2-minute silence) “He went from being afraid to come to wanting more appointments. All because of how well you did.  Why aren’t you smiling?”

“Anyone in school could have done what I did.”

“Did everyone get the same feedback as you?”

“No.” (1-minute silence) Some of the patients got up and left before the exam was over. A few times a teacher had to take over and finish an exam.”

“But, you did everything yourself.” Claire is beginning to smile. “That means something good about you, Claire. Your patient said you didn’t hurt him. That means something good about you. Your patient wants to see you again. Can you let yourself feel good about this?”

“I don’t know?” (1-minute silence) Suddenly, the smile is gone, and tears have started to pour down Claire’s face. Dr. Berman hands her the tissue box.

“Claire, what is happening?”

“I can’t feel good about anything. I just can’t. If I tell you why, can you promise it will make all the pain go away?”

“No, I can’t. But, I can promise to listen carefully to what you tell me. I can promise to help you gain a greater understanding of what has happened to you.”

Claire has begun to clutch her belly and looks terrified. “I am so afraid to be here talking to you but so afraid to leave.” (1-minute of silence)

“I see the fear in your face. I am here with you. Remember, Mr. Carson is also sitting in the waiting room for you. You have both of us with you.”

“I think I need to go,” Claire has gotten up.

“I will be here for you next week if you want to come back? (Claire nods and tears up). If you need to talk before next week you can call me.  Otherwise, spend some time every day, watching your fish and thinking about what is important for us to talk about.”

“I can do that,” Claire said softly as she leaves the room.