What is Parks Inner Child Therapy?
“PICT is an empowering, energising experience for both therapist and client.”
S.K. – Senior Occupational Therapist in Community Mental Health
Parks Inner Child Therapy (PICT) is a powerful and versatile visualisation-based therapy model. It is an evolving, cognitive form of therapy, with a foundation in basic Transactional Analysis, that incorporates Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to aid rapid positive change. Although PICT was originally created to specifically help people recover from the trauma and damage of sexual, physical and emotional abuse during childhood (such harm may have been caused deliberately, caused by neglect, or by inadequate parenting which was not intentional), PICT is equally effective for a wide range of emotional problems. Such as: eating disorders, OCD, DID, self harm, ritual abuse, anxiety or depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, phobias, working with abusers, grief and loss issues (including murder, suicide, abortion, miscarriage, still birth, loss of job, material things or pets). PICT therapists also have the skills to assist with Critical Incident Debriefing (witnessing/experiencing highly traumatic events).
PICT is a directional model following a flexible structure adapted to the client’s individual needs. PICT is designed to assist people who have completed the ‘unloading’ process (the initial talking through of past events) to move into the process of deep and lasting change work. PICT Practitioners can either facilitate the unloading process and then move on to change work, or accept clients who have already completed the unloading with prior counselling and are now ready for change work.
“Thank you so much for your help with my recovery. The tools you have given me have opened my mind so that I can now begin to really live my life.”
S.H. – PICT client
Benefits to clients
The most significant feature of Parks Inner Child Therapy (PICT) is that it can bring about change gently because there is no need to disclose any details of traumatic events. PICT addresses the effects of the trauma (whether the trauma is in conscious memory or not) rather than focusing on the detail of an event and therefore allows the option for clients to retain their privacy, dignity and to work comfortably. PICT produces measurable results and contains thorough, quick and effective techniques to bring about beneficial and lasting change.
Most clients enjoy the methods and are quickly aware of their achievements. PICT therapy can be relaxing and satisfying, with times for light heartedness to counterbalance the more serious moments. During training, PICT therapists are required to use their own personal material as they learn the PICT tools, to enable them to fully understand the ‘client’ experience.
“I have found that since using the tools acquired from the PICT Training my work has become far more effective. I have noticed positive change taking place very quickly and significantly, with very few unpleasant emotional experiences for my clients. As the therapist I find myself continually refreshed and renewed using PICT methods, whereas before, work with people facing abuse issues could be highly stressful to myself.”
D.L. – Psychotherapist
How PICT works
When adults with good reasoning power find they are unable to resolve ongoing problems they can often be heard to complain in frustration, ‘I know I shouldn’t feel (think/do) this, but I still do!’ In other words, their logic is at odds with their feelings and their feelings seem to be winning the battle. This is usually a depressing experience for people who want to be in charge of their life and they often blame themselves, feel guilty and call themselves ‘weak’ or ‘useless’. So, why are people with good reasoning power trapped in an unwanted feeling or behaviour?
PICT teaches that the core beliefs we have about ourselves (our identity), about others or about the world are learned during early childhood, before we are old enough to determine if the information is correct or not. Because this process happens so early on, the information/beliefs we have learned seem more like a basic truth that has always been with us. In other words, it is difficult for a person to think in terms of ‘belief’, it seems much bigger than that – it seems like a truth about identity, i.e. ‘That’s just how I am’, ‘That’s just how life is’.
That belief learning process is fine if we have emotionally healthy families who demonstrate good parenting, because then most of our beliefs about self, others or the world will be positive and supportive. However, when families are dysfunctional or parenting skills are lacking, the beliefs we learn are mistaken and limiting, i.e. I’m not good enough, I can’t get anything right, No one can be trusted, There is no safety, etc. Mistaken beliefs learned during childhood remain active in the background, essentially invisible to us, as they rule our decision making, influence our self esteem, effect our relationships and our ability to motivate ourselves. Because the beliefs are ‘invisible’ to our logic we feel confused and frustrated when we ‘know we shouldn’t feel (think/do) something, but we still do.’
PICT works on the premise that the ‘inner child’ (that one part of our unconscious where the memories & beliefs of childhood reside) who holds the original beliefs, can be communicated with and the limiting beliefs can be changed. One might think that any mistaken belief would be automatically updated by new information as a person grows up – sort of like changing our belief in Father Christmas. However, that does not happen to those identity beliefs that start so early they are out of consciousness, nor does it happen to beliefs created from trauma events. Therefore, PICT uses the ‘today’ adult conscious mind to communicate with the inner child from the past.
Transactional Analysis clearly outlines the ‘child’, ‘adult’ and ‘parent’ aspects of individuals and encourages understanding (and ultimately choice) of the functioning of those aspects within self, and with others, to resolve problems. PICT has simplified and has specifically, flexibly and vastly restructured this accepted process to enable resolution of ongoing problems, unwanted behaviours and past traumas.
The PICT model assists clients to access specific information, through the unconscious mind, to identify the root cause of ongoing problems and unwanted behaviours. Then, using specific PICT techniques, the client’s ‘adult part’ (with direction from the PICT therapist) gives the ‘child part’ appropriate information, love and support – which are the three basic ingredients needed to create belief change. Consequently changing the perspective for the ‘child part’ and enabling the ‘child’ and ‘adult’ part of the client to both gain positive and matching beliefs about self. Essentially, the client is guided through the unwanted feelings or behaviours to the desired emotional freedom. Within this process the ‘parent’ part is automatically learning new attitudes and skills to alter negative and destructive self-talk.
“You should be so proud of the work you do. How do I say thanks to someone who has given me my life back?
I never thought I would ever again feel normal, but I do. Life is now better, & getting even more so. Many, many thanks.”
P.J. – PICT Client
Why Parks Inner Child Therapy (PICT) works
As already stated, some root causes of problems are tucked away in the unconscious and clients have no idea why they have the problem and consequently how to get rid of it. However, even when clients do have conscious knowledge of root causes, those early experiences are usually surrounded by a great deal of guilt or shame. Those kinds of feelings are very uncomfortable and people tend to avoid looking at them and, without specialist skills, a counsellor will not have the ability to gently, safely and effectively guide clients past the shame, blame and guilt. This lack of specialist skills often leaves clients feeling like they are going in circles and not really getting anywhere. PICT teaches that, regardless of the events, because they took place in childhood there is no guilt, blame or shame attached to the child – only to the grown-up who chose to interfere with or mistreat a child.
Children accept blame very easily and are certainly encouraged by dysfunctional parents to do so. It is very easy for dysfunctional parents to use their children as objects to project their own feelings of inadequacy and guilt upon. For the most part, children’s mistakes are innocent behaviours committed as they learn the myriad of rules and regulations of life. Children are reliant upon their parents for information of how to safely and appropriately function in life and if parents have not done their job properly children are vulnerable to experience serious mistakes. If parents have failed in their duty of care, the responsibility is theirs. However, because these issues are seldom discussed or examined, children can grow up with a backlog of guilt or shame that is unwarranted.
Working solely through the conscious mind (adult state) or solely through the unconscious mind (partially child and parent) seldom creates the balance or harmony between those states that is needed for full problem resolution. By utilising metaphor and visualisation for the unconscious mind, and appropriate information and guidance for the conscious mind, PICT efficiently bridges the gap and assists clients to painlessly identify and thoroughly resolve issues attached to blame, guilt and shame.
At the conclusion of PICT therapy clients regularly report feeling a sense of completion, a new sense of understanding of how and why they had the problems and a feeling that they now have all the puzzle parts of their lives put back together – ‘My life now makes sense’ and ‘I now feel free to be me’ are common statements. These feelings are brought about by the inner harmony created by bridging the gap between the conscious and unconscious mind – for if restricting unresolved material is operating from the unconscious, there can seldom be a sense of peace and harmony in the conscious mind. This sense of inner harmony generally prompts clients to feel they are able to successfully deal with any new challenges life may bring because they are no longer hindered by problems or traumas from the past. Both client and therapist end the therapeutic relationship with a welcome and well deserved sense of achievement.
“I have found PICT to be an excellent alternative to more traditional models used with clients who have experienced abuse. I have found it to bring fast results and changes more significant and profound than either myself or the client expected. Moreover the changes in the client are profound and lasting, unlike the temporary and superficial progress we have accepted in the past.”
J. H. – Occupational Therapist
How Is PICT Different To Other Therapy Models?
PICT has a flexible structure with a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as measurable results. PICT can quickly and gently deal with even the most traumatic experiences because there is no need to reveal painful details. The model is designed to obtain thorough understanding and resolution of problems, rather than leaving gaps that can cause the same problems to resurface later on. It is designed to work quickly whilst creating deep and lasting change; work that would generally take six months to a year using most therapeutic models may on average be completed in ten two hour sessions using PICT. Consequently, PICT greatly reduces waiting lists, ends the ‘revolving door’ syndrome and creates gentle, lasting resolution.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was falling apart this time last year; thanks to you I came through the other side. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time.”
J.W. – PICT Client