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Healing Developmental Trauma and Dissociation

By Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D.


2nd Edition August 19, 2021 by Routledge - 448 pages  

In the second edition of Joyanna Silberg’s classic The Child Survivor, practitioners who treat dissociative children will find practical tools that are backed up by recent advances in clinical research. Chapters are filled with examples of clinical dilemmas that can challenge even the most expert child trauma clinicians, and Silberg shows how to handle these dilemmas with creativity, attunement, and sensitivity to the adaptive nature of even the most complex dissociative symptoms. The new edition addresses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and provides tips for working with traumatized children in telehealth. A new chapter on organized abuse explains how children victimized by even the most sadistic crimes can respond well to therapy. Clinicians on the front lines of treatment will come away from the book with an arsenal of therapeutic techniques that they can put into practice right away, limiting the need for restrictive hospitalizations or out-of-home placements for their young clients.


Introduction 1. Trauma and Its Effects 2. An Integrative Developmental Model of Dissociation 3. Diagnostic Considerations 4. Assessing Dissociative Processes 5. Beginning the Treatment Journey 6. Educate and Motivate: Introducing The EDUCATE Model 7. Bridging the Selves: Healing through Connections to what’s Hidden 8. "I Try to Forget to Remember": Reversing Amnesia 9. Befriending the Body: Somatic Considerations for the Child Survivor 10. Staying Awake: Reversing Dissociative Shutdown 11. Building Attachment across States: Affect Regulation in the Context of Relationships 12. Child-Centered Family Therapy: Family Treatment as Adjunct to Dissociation-Focused Interventions 13. Rewriting the Script: Processing Traumatic Memories and Resolving Flashbacks 14. Countering Organized Abuse: Organized Attachment and Love 15. Interfacing With Systems: The Therapist as Activist 16. Integration of Self: Towards a Healing Future References Appendices


​By Ellen Ma PsyD.

Published online by Elsevier Feb 3, 2023

"It is like watching how she thinks, how she talks, and how she acts in therapy with children and adolescents. There is theoretical support behind her decisions. There are creativity and sensitively in her actions. [...] For young professionals, this book will be a good reference for having a foundation in assessment and intervention. For experienced therapists, it will stimulate your reflection of practice and help improving your work. I highly recommend this book to both novice and experienced therapists."


​By Eva T. Young

Published online Jan 20, 2023

"It takes a bold and delicate hand, a knowledgeable mind, and a compassionate soul to write about the unfathomable while keeping the reader engaged and able to reflect on the unthinkable. This is the brilliance of Joyanna Silberg’s The Child Survivor: Healing Developmental Trauma and Dissociation (2nd edition). The Child Survivor gives clinicians a comprehensive look at the impact of developmental trauma and offers practical concepts, theories and techniques for therapists at every level of expertise.[...]"


Healing Developmental Trauma and Dissociation

By Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D.


Published October 16th 2012 by Routledge – 288 pages

The Child Survivor is a clinically rich, comprehensive overview of the treatment of children and adolescents who have developed dissociative symptoms in response to ongoing developmental trauma. Joyanna Silberg, a widely respected authority in the field, uses case examples to illustrate hard-to-manage clinical dilemmas such as children presenting with rage reactions, amnesia, and dissociative shut-down. These behaviors are often survival strategies, and in The Child Survivor practitioners will find practical management tools that are backed up by recent scientific advances in neurobiology. Clinicians on the front lines of treatment will come away from the book with an arsenal of therapeutic techniques that they can put into practice right away, limiting the need for restrictive hospitalizations or out-of-home placements for their young clients. The Child Survivor was awarded the 2013 Written Media Award by the International Society on the Study of Trauma and Dissociation.


Trauma and Its Effects. An Integrative Developmental Model of Dissociation. Diagnostic Considerations. Assessing Dissociative Processes. Beginning the Treatment Journey. Educate and Motivate: Introducing The EDUCATE Model. Bridging the Selves: Healing Through Connections to What’s Hidden. "I Try to Forget to Remember": Reversing Amnesia. Befriending the Body: Somatic Considerations for the Child Survivor. Staying Awake: Reversing Dissociative Shut Down. Building Attachment Across States: Affect Regulation in the Context of Relationships. Child-Centered Family Therapy: Family Treatment as Adjunct to Dissociation-Focused Interventions. Rewriting the Script: Processing Traumatic Memories and Resolving Flashbacks. Interfacing With Systems: The Therapist as Activist. Integration of Self: Towards a Healing Future. References. Appendices.


"It is easy to say that this book is a must read. It is, of course, for child therapists. But it is a must read as well for adult clinicians because it speaks about the traumatized children the adult clients have been and for whom their inner child parts are a vivid testimony. Adult therapists will find not only new ways to understand their clients’ difficulties but also new, creative, and human ways to help them heal."

Sandra Baita PsyD, Journal of Trauma & Dissociation


"For any clinician who works with this population or suspects they may have children or teens who display dissociative symptoms, The Child Survivor is a reading list must."

Maureen C. Kenny, Florida International University


"Reaching back in memory, I find myself reconnecting with a jarring yet formative experience early in my clinical career. I am sitting at a table in a small, nondescript office that is rather ugly and designated for mental health intake assessments. The file on the table describes a five-year-old with burns over 45 percent of his body, the scars a result ofattempted parental murder. 'Oh, God,' I say to myself, 'Who can do this to a child?' I learn one of the first lessons of child mental health care: There are no worst case scenarios, no situations beyond which human cruelty cannot exist.  A knock on the door frame accompanies a little voice: 'Are you Clare?' I turn to see James, a young child to whom I extend an invitation to sit in the large office chair. 'Yes,' I say. He smiles, sits for a moment, and quietly asks, 'Are you going to kill me?' Nothing, nothing in your training will ever prepare you to respond to such a question.

It is from this background of clinical experience that I greet Silberg’s book titled The Child Survivor: Healing Developmental Trauma and Dissociation with joy, excitement, and relief. This is a 'must-have' text for clinicians and clinical educators, particularly those who educate psychology students at a master’s and doctoral degree level."  download the full review here >>

Clare Lawlor, PhD, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lewis University

"The Child Survivor is an extraordinary resource on the treatment of traumatized children who exhibit dissociative adaptations and disorders. At once highly readable and accessible, The Child Survivor provides practical suggestions for working with some of the most difficult and intransigent symptoms in traumatized children and adolescents. The techniques described are based on Dr. Silberg's own clinical experience integrated with the most recent advances in the neurosciences and treatment research. This book is a must-read for all who treat complex trauma survivors as it will boost their range of clinical approaches and skills and their confidence."

Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP, author of Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy and The Treatment of Complex Trauma: A Sequenced, Relationship–Based Approach

"Joyanna Silberg has provided clinicians with a unique and indispensable resource for treating children and adolescents with dissociative symptoms. The EDUCATE approach that is the centerpiece of the book is an admirably concise, thorough, and clinically sophisticated guide to enable clinicians to fulfilling the book’s goal of assisting dissociative children to regain the foundational competences of self-determination and self-regulation. The clinical examples resonate with the experience of real-world clinical practice and illustrate practical strategies that every therapist needs."
Julian D. Ford, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut

"In this long-awaited book, Joyanna Silberg, a masterful therapist and teacher, demystifies dissociation and distills decades of clinical wisdom and lessons from her remarkable work with hundreds of dissociative children. Most importantly, she provides the reader with clear, practical intervention strategies that work. Every child therapist should read this book!"
Bradley C. Stolbach, PhD, director of the Chicago Child Trauma Center at La Rabida Children's Hospital

"Joyanna Silberg articulates cogently her strength-based approach to treating severely traumatized dissociative children and adolescents. Through the use of illuminating case descriptions and clear theoretical explanations, clinicians of all levels of expertise will learn from reading this book. Readers will feel inspired and empowered to help young clients as well as a deepened sense of respect for the resourceful adaptations that children and teens make to survive attachment difficulties and trauma."
Bethany Brand, PhD, professor of psychology at Towson University

"I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Silberg's book which I’ve just dug into and keep wanting to go back to when I get reading time. It is SO well written—I’ve been trying to find words to describe it . . . Her writing is so clear and there is a beauty or poetry or something in the way the words read. But this quality does not compromise the depth and the complexity of the ideas she is writing about. It’s one of those rare books in which clinicians will walk away with new things to think about and new things to DO as well. Bravo Dr. Silberg! This book will become a classic."
Jan Freeman, MSW, LCSW-C, founder and chair of the DC Metro Area Trauma Forum and faculty in the ISSTD Psychotherapy Training Program


"Readers may feel inspired and empowered to help young people as well as gaining a more meaningful sense of respect for the resilience that children and teens develop through experiences of trauma."​

Simply Fostering,


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System Speak: Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)

Guest: Joyanna Silberg, PhD

Our guest on the podcast this morning is Joyanna Silberg, Past President of ISSTD, and expert on dissociation in children and adolescents. She shares with us about her work with children and trauma. She talks about the capacity of dissociation as a gift to yourself.  She speaks to the impact of screen time on families, and she also shares about her work with trafficking victims. Trigger warning for short and simple examples of abuse and trafficking in passing (not discussed in depth). Listen on Apple Podcasts by clicking the link below.



Ambushed by Memories of Trauma: Memory-Processing Interventions in an Adolescent Boy with Nocturnal Dissociative Episodes

Editor: Eleni K. Maneta, MD

Authors: Lux Ratnamohan, MBBS, FRANZCP, Laurie MacKinnon, MSW, PhD, Melissa Lim, MPsyc(Clin), Richard Webster, MBBS, MSc, FRACP, Karen Waters, MBBS, FRACP, PhD, GCCM, Kasia Kozlowska, MBBS, PhD, FRANZCP, Joyanna Silberg, PhD, Ricky Greenwald, PsyD, and Monique Ribeiro, MD


At presentation to the Accident and Emergency Department, BJ was a 16-year-old boy in eleventh grade, with a one-month history of unusual sleep-related behaviors. As the latest exam- ple, BJ had awakened one morning to find a painful cut on his arm and a bloodied knife in the kitchen; he had no memory of what had happened. BJ was admitted to the hospital, jointly, under a neurologist (RW), a sleep-medicine physician (KW), and a psychiatrist (KK).

Treating the Dissociative Child

The road back from the ultimate loss of self

By Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D. 

She wasn’t responsive to my voice or my soft touch. Her face was pale, her body was limp, her breathing was rhythmic and shallow. Should I call the medics, I wondered, or have her mother carry her out of my office? Luckily, she was my last client for the day, so I had time to figure out what to do with this unresponsive teen. I was seeing dissociation in its extreme form: the body shutting down in a “freeze” position, the way some wild prey respond when threatened by a predator. But what in our session had 17-year-old Trina perceived as “predatory”?

Though there had been a casual conversation about college plans and a boyfriend, there had been no talk of her early sexual abuse memories with a grandfather with whom she no longer had contact. After three years of treating her for dissociative behaviors, including sudden regressions, amnesia, and dazed states, I thought we’d moved beyond such an extreme response to stress on her part.

Trina was demonstrating a “dissociative shutdown,” a symptom often found in children faced with a repeated, frightening event, such as being raped by a caregiver, for which there’s no escape. Over time, this response may generalize to associated thoughts or emotions that can trigger the reaction. Although the child’s body may be immobilized, her mind remains active and can invent solutions, often retreating into an imaginary world, where bad things aren’t happening. With time and practice, the mere thought of needing to escape a situation may trigger a self-induced hypnotic retreat, along with a primitive freeze response....

Therapists’ Perspectives on the Woody Allen Allegations
Clinician's Digest

By Garry Cooper and Mary Sykes Wylie
March 2014

Psychologist Joyanna Silberg, author of The Child Survivor: Healing Developmental Trauma and Dissociation, is a fierce advocate for abused children and for mothers accused by their husbands of encouraging their children to fabricate stories of abuse. “Ninety-eight percent of children’s stories of being sexually abused turn out to be accurately founded,” she says. “It would be hard for me to imagine that any child clinician would believe that Dylan Farrow is fabricating, but adult clinicians who’ve talked with people like Allen might tend to back him up.”

The Price of a Stolen Childhood​

The New York Times Magazine

By Emily Bazelon
January 24, 2013

"Marsh suggested that Amy see a forensic psychologist, Joyanna Silberg, who evaluated Amy and said she would need therapy throughout her life and could expect to work sporadically because of the likelihood of periodic setbacks. Silberg attributed these costs — Amy’s damages — to her awareness of the ongoing downloading and viewing. “Usually, we try to help survivors of child sexual abuse make a very strong distinction between the past and the present,” Silberg, who has given testimony on Amy’s behalf for restitution hearings, told me. 'The idea is to contain the harm: it happened then, and it’s not happening anymore. But how do you do that when these images are still out there? The past is still the present, which turns the hallmarks of treatment on their head.'"  






Amy's case featured in "The Price of a Stolen Childhood" is going to be heard by the Supreme Court.  Read more here.


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