What is Inner Child Healing?
As the name suggests, it is a process that helps clients connect with and heal a child that never grew up, either because of a traumatic event where the child experienced intense emotions or because a particular stage of development was not complete.
How does Inner Child develop?
If you are a psychologist, the easiest way to understand this is with the help of Erick Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development. The model describes the different psychosocial crises each individual goes through at different age groups in their lifetime. If the crisis is not addressed in the specific age group, then a part of us gets fixated on that age group. This means that even after we grow up and become adults, the crisis, consciously or unconsciously, may keep influencing and playing up in different areas of our life.
For example, in the first stage of development i.e. infancy, the psychosocial crisis that the child experiences are Trust vs Mistrust. If, in this age group, the child has certain experiences that create a sense of mistrust towards people, even after the child grows up, they may continue to find it difficult to trust people. This mistrust could lead to issues in multiple areas of the adult’s life, and while they are maybe aware of the trust issues, the client may not even remember why they find it difficult to trust.
As we mentioned earlier, fixation at a particular stage of development is one of the causes of the creation of the inner child.
Another cause is an experience of intense negative emotions that the child is not able to handle. The emotion got suppressed, and a part of the child remained stuck with that emotion.
Take the example of a client who felt lonely and unloved as a child. Today the client may have a loving family and supporting friends, yet they may constantly feel lonely and unloved. The client may even tell you that logically they know these feelings are irrational, that they know they are surrounded by people who love and care for them, yet the slightest disagreement triggers these feelings intensely.
You may have even come across people in your life who, in certain situations, start throwing tantrums like small children. Later some of them may even confess to you that they don’t know why they act like that in certain situations. Some of them may even say that it feels as if something inside me takes over. No matter how much I try to rationalize that moment, it doesn’t help. Even when I know my response is childish, that the response is exaggerated, I am just not able to control it.
These are some of the examples to help you understand what is an inner child. I am sure you can think of more examples where you have experienced or witnessed this phenomenon. If you are a psychologist, there would be at least a few clients that you can think of as you continue to explore this concept of the inner child.
Overview of the Inner Child Healing Process
I am sure you are also beginning to realize how powerful and important inner child healing can be for helping clients get over deep emotional issues.
The overall process includes identifying the core emotion that the child is stuck with or the specific stage of development that the child is fixated on, releasing the suppressed emotions or completing the stage of development, making the child feel safe and secure and finally helping the child grow up and integrate with the child.
Inner child healing is an extremely powerful process during which the clients may experience an emotional breakdown. While working with the process, you will realize that, generally, multiple inner children are stuck with the same emotion and that working with each of these children is a good idea.
There are places where you may find that the client, as an adult or the child in the client, is unwilling to release the emotion or integrate. In such cases, you may want to combine the inner child with other techniques like n-step reframing and Hypnodrama.
Step-by-step guide to Inner child healing
Before we get into the exact steps you can follow for inner child healing, it is important to remember that we generally use this process with clients struggling with unresolved pain or repressed emotions.
Most clients are able to describe the symptoms or the presenting problems but are not consciously aware of the reasons behind these unresolved pains and repressed emotions.
- Help the client define the presenting problem. Use the format I feel… about… when
- Help clients move from the presenting problem to the core issue with the help of delayering techniques. The core issue is defined as the underlying emotion that the child is stuck with and the first painful event where the client, as a child, experienced the event. The Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy diploma covers a range of delayering techniques like Corrective therapy, Emotional Empowerment techniques, Self-validation and integration therapy, metaphors, and more to help clients identify the core issue.
- Ask the client to imagine themselves in a safe space. Before you go to the next step, it is extremely important that the client is able to imagine themselves in the safe space and feel completely safe and comfortable. Ask the client to describe the safe space and the feelings they are experiencing to be sure that the client is experiencing these feelings to the fullest. You can use well-crafted hypnotic suggestions, anchoring, and past positive memories to help the clients experience these positive feelings.
- Ask the client to invite the child who is stuck with the core issue into the room. Replace the word core issue with the emotion identified as the core issue. Let the client know that they will be able to see the child, hear the child or sense the child’s presence in the room. Ask the client to share his/her first impressions about the child.
- Once the client can notice the presence of the child, ask the client to make the child feel comfortable. Let the child know that he or she is safe and that the client is there to protect or take care of them. I also ask the client to say sorry to the child for not having connected earlier and that the client did not know how to. But now that the client knows, the client is here to take care of the child, to protect the child, and that the child is safe and loved.
- Once the child feels comfortable, ask the client to inform the child that the client can help the child become free from the emotions that the child was stuck with earlier. Ask the child whether the child is willing to receive the help and only after the child gives the permission to proceed to the next step.
- Help the child release the emotions. You can do this with the help of different techniques.
- The simplest one is to ask the client to give the child a magical balloon that will pull out all the related emotions, their causes and effects from the child and then release the balloon into the sky till it completely disappears, taking with it all these emotions so that the child is completely free from it.
- If the child’s emotion is primarily because of another individual, say the father or the mother or someone else, you can do a Hypnodrama between the child and the other person.
- That said, the best way is to really ask the child what the child wants the client to do to help release the emotions and… if required… express the feeling completely.
- Once the child has been able to release the feelings, help the child experience the appropriate replacement emotions to replace the ones released. You can do this by asking the universe to give a gift to the child in return for the emotions released or by asking the client to do some activities with the child so that the child can experience the client can even use an anchor if installed earlier, to experience the replacement feelings and then suggest that the feelings will spread from the client into the child.
- Next, suggest that the feelings are becoming stronger and spreading into each and every cell of the child’s body and then suggest that the child will grow up to the client’s current age and integrate with the client. Suggest to the client that as the child integrates with you, notice how good it feels and that the client is experiencing a sense of completion.
- Once the client says yes, ask the client o request other children stuck with the core issue come into the room. Repeat the release, replace, and integration process with the children that come into the room and then check again for any other children till no other child walks into the room.
- Generally speaking, the client will notice at least three children. There is no upper limit to how many children can come in.
- After the first 2 or 3 children you work with one at a time, you can invite all the other children together.
- The youngest inner child will generally be less than seven years old, and the oldest can be even a second younger than the client’s current age.
- Once the integration with all children is complete, do future pacing to help the client notice what changes will take place in their life and their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours when interacting with others or themselves.
- After future pacing, wake up the client and ask the client to notice any changes that are taking place in the coming days.
The process that I have shared may require modifications depending on what actually happens during the session. You may need to integrate other processes where required.
For example, with the child refuses to receive help in the 6th step, then check the positive intention behind not seeking help, continue with N-step reframing first, and then check with the child for permission again.
You may also want to include revelation metaphors before future pacing to bring in an element of learning or insight that the client can get from these experiences.
Interested in learning advanced techniques under supervision?
If you are a practising psychologist who likes to learn the Inner child healing process and other powerful techniques under supervision and guidance, check out the Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy Diploma. You will not just learn Hypnodrama and a lot more but also how to integrate multiple techniques seamlessly as a part of a comprehensive eclectic approach to therapy.