One of the book assigned for my Clinical Relationship class this semester was The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma by Annie Rogers, PhD. I fell in love with the book, reading it in one day and then reading a big chunk of it for a second time. After that I went back and checked out Rogers’ first book A Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy.
About Annie Rogers
Annie Rogers is a psychotherapist who shares case studies of some of her work with us in each of these books. She also has her own history of mental illness, including hallucinations and hospitalizations. A major focus area of her work has been studying French psychoanalyst Lacan and applying her interpretations of his theory to her work. She is inspiring in her work and it was fascinating to read each of her books for different reasons.
A Shining Affliction
This first book is a book of two different stories.
The first is the story of one of her earliest patients, a young boy that she worked with during her practicum year. His is a devastating story of neglect and abuse and the acting out that occurred as he tried to cope with the world around him. It’s also a powerful story of transformative healing through the therapeutic relationship. His story reminded me of so many of the kids I worked with in my group home work and her work with him is inspiring.
But her work is imperfect. And for a time she has to take a break from him. That’s because this book is also her story – her story of her own breakdown, triggered by her work with young clients and complicated by a negative relationship with her own therapist. We see her work with another therapist as well as some psychology mentors and heal.
These are human stories and so they are stories without endings, without perfect resolutions. But they are powerful. And it’s inspiring to have read this book after reading The Unsayable because I was already familiar with how inspiring Rogers’ work went on to become and it was even more inspiring after realizing the difficulties she surmounted to get there.
In The Unsayable Rogers reveals more of her own story. She applies a new lens to it, having studied Lacan extensively in the meantime plus just gaining more insight into herself with age. Rogers also goes on to share a large number of other case studies of a variety of young girls that she’s worked with over the years, primarily adolescents who were victims of sexual abuse. This includes one extensive case study of a girl that she worked with for a number of years, revealing the family’s intergenerational trauma.
Throughout the book, Rogers gives us information about how she works. This includes clear explanations of how she applies Lacan’s theories in her work. Lacan is a complex psychoanlytic theories, difficult to understand for a number of reasons, but super fascinating. I’m really interested in his work, especially in what’s explored here which is the way that “unsayable” traumas emerge not only in behavior but in language. We repeat words and phrases that can then be noticed and tied together to reveal the truths and say our unsayable things. Fascinating stuff.
I have a sense this is just the tip of the iceberg of an area of psychological theory that is going to fascinate me for some time!