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How trauma can affect adult relationships


Professional Development Newsletter: Issue 4

Monday 22nd February 2021

How trauma can affect adult relationships

As we come to the end of our February ‘Attachment Newsletters’, I want to shift the focus and purpose of these newsletters towards covering a range of topics, from attachment to trauma, Jungian psychology to therapeutic play.

All with the single, most important, outcome of empowering each of you to become the best Drawing and Talking Practitioner that you can be.

Today I want us to explore adults.

The Drawing and Talking technique is now used internationally to support not only children, but adults too.

The trauma suffered in childhood can have a tremendous impact on a client’s ability to engage in healthy adult relationships.

Terry Real, a Licenced Independent Clinical Social Worker, has a way of thinking about the psyche that can help clients understand the aftereffects of trauma and help practitioners retarget their interventions with clients who are struggling in their relationships.

Adults who have suffered trauma (for example, abuse or neglect) go on to develop 3 ego states.


Was wounded by abuse or neglect

  • A young, vulnerable, possibly pre-verbal child
  • Often overwhelmed, yet longs for connection
  • Much trauma work focuses on the wounded child
  • But it’s NOT usually the wounded child that brings dysfunction into adult relationships


A child’s version of an adult that developed to protect the wounded child

  • Often a perfectionist, harsh and unforgiving
  • Sees the world in black and white
  • An older child
  • Unable to learn skills
  • Cares only about self-preservation
  • Views intimacy as a threat
  • Not only reacts to the aggressor, but also identifies with the aggressor


Makes thoughtful decisions

  • Mature, thoughtful, nuanced, forgiving
  • Based in the present • Understands imperfection and ambiguity
  • Makes sense of trauma and its impact on relationships
  • Adaptable – unlike the child parts, the functional adult can learn and use new skills

According to Terry Real, it’s usually the adaptive child that creates problems in a client’s current relationships.

That’s important information, and so I want you to take some time to reflect and think about what this might mean for relationships that your adult clients may have, or maybe even your own relationships.

For those of you who do take some time to reflect, I would LOVE to hear from you.

I look forward to sharing our future CPD content with you.

Marcus Dyke – Drawing and Talking Ltd

Email: marcusdyke@drawingandtalking.com