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Digital Seminar

Healing the incest wound

Christine Courtois, PhD, ABPP
1 Hour 29 Minutes
Nov 02, 2022
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Digital Seminar
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Incest was discovered as an unexpectedly common life event and the source of severe emotional distress in girls and women by Freud and his contemporaries, who later renounced this view and relegated incest to the status of childhood wish and fantasy. The reality of incest and its impact were re-discovered in the 1970s and 80s by feminists and associated social scientists who investigated and substantiated its occurrence, prevalence, and the primary family dynamics involved. In the decades since, incest has again gone underground, but in a different way. It has been subsumed under generic terms such as “child maltreatment” and “childhood sexual abuse,” even though most child sexual abuse is incestuous, meaning that it is perpetrated by someone related to or in relationship with the victim. Recent research has identified yet another form, when parents exploit their own children for money, subsumed under the term “sex trafficking.”  This language muting and incorrect terminology has the effect of obscuring both the prevalence of incest and the betrayal and relational dynamics that are involved and that place a high burden on victims.

These dynamics also play out in the responses that incest survivors receive when they disclose the abuse, or it is otherwise discovered. Disclosure trauma occurs when victims are responded to with disbelief, dismissal, contempt, or worse and when professionals and organizations do not provide appropriate intervention and protection. Recently, an unconscionable additional burden has been placed on incest victims by the reversal of Roe v Wade, where no exceptions are allowed in cases of rape or incest. This constitutes societal betrayal, adding yet another layer of burden on the pregnant incest victim. All these dynamics are necessary to understand and address in a comprehensive response and treatment.

This recording emphasizes the betrayal-trauma inherent in incest and the disorganized attachment dynamics that are likely at play in the incestuous family. Without effective intervention, these can have a lifetime impact on the victim and on the entire family. An overview of the consequences associated with this form of sexual abuse will be discussed to include the more recent types of societal betrayals and their implications. The rationale for a relational and attachment-based treatment with great attention to betrayal dynamics will be presented. The need for social action and pushback regarding abortion availability is evident if impregnated incest victims are to receive social justice.



PESI Australia, in collaboration with PESI in the USA, offers quality online continuing professional development events from the leaders in the field at a standard recognized by professional associations including psychology, social work, occupational therapy, alcohol and drug professionals, counselling and psychotherapy. On completion of the training, a Professional Development Certificate is issued after the individual has answered and submitted a quiz and course evaluation. This program is worth 1.5 hours CPD for points calculation by your association.



Christine Courtois, PhD, ABPP's Profile

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Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP, a board-certified counseling psychologist, retired from clinical practice in Washington, DC, is now an author and consultant/trainer on trauma psychology and treatment in Bethany Beach, DE, where she is a licensed psychologist. She is known for her work on adult survivors of developmental trauma in childhood complex trauma and its treatment. Her co-edited book, Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders was published in 2020. In addition to other professional books, she has written a consumer book entitled, It's Not You, It's What Happened to You. Dr. Courtois was Chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of PTSD in Adults for the American Psychological Association and is past president of APA Division 56 (Trauma Psychology). She co-founded and was Clinical and Training Director of a specialized inpatient and day treatment program, The CENTER: Posttraumatic Disorders Program in Washington, DC. She has received recognition for her work from several state, national, and international professional organizations.


Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. Christine Courtois is a consultant/trainer on trauma psychology and treatment. She has employment relationships with Georgetown University, Rutgers University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Courtois receives royalties as a published author. She receives a speaking honorarium and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dr. Christine Courtois is a member and fellow of the American Psychological Association and a fellow of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. She is a member of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Dr. Courtois is an Ad hoc reviewer and editor for several peer review journals, for a complete list contact PESI, Inc.


  1. Describe incest and incestuous forms of abuse.
  2. Describe betrayal and relationship factors as primary dynamics of incestuous abuse.
  3. Identify the implications of an incest pregnancy on the victim and on the family.


  • An Update on Incest
    • Brief history
    • Political and social dimensions
    • Definitions, different intra- and extra-familial types, prevalence
    • Betrayal and relational dynamics
  • Common Reactions and Aftereffects to Incest
    • Complicated relationships
  • The Incest Pregnancy
    • Implications for the victim and family
    • What about the baby?
    • What about the father?
  • Impact and Implications of reversal of Roe v Wade
    • On the victim and family
    • What about the baby?
    • What about the father?
  • Need for assistance, abortion and treatment availability and social action
    • Personal choice
    • Social justice issues

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Marriage & Family Therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Other Mental Health Professionals

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