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Inner Child Healing
inner child healing

Written by Ashley Posey

Hello, beautiful soul. I am Ashley Dianne Posey, and I believe in the integrative path to healing. I am a free spirited, trauma-informed psychotherapist and Reiki master who incorporates the scientific with the energetic and spiritual. Writing is a love language for me, and my intention here is to create a space for learning, laughing, healing, and getting to know a little more about me.

Long before I was a psychotherapist, a trusted friend shared the concept of inner child healing with me. I was immediately struck by the depth that this turning inwards entailed and was simultaneously intrigued by the potential reconciliation of this younger, abandoned part of myself. If I’m being honest, at that time, my fear and resistance took the driver’s seat to doing that work. It felt daunting to think about unearthing “her” wisdom, much less “reparenting” this part of myself. I used to look back and wonder if I would have leaned in sooner, had I known the deep capacity for self-compassion, worthiness, and empowerment that this type of healing could bring.

Ultimately, post master’s degree and in my time living abroad from 2016-2019, I set out to reconnect with and to heal my inner child. I believe that we intuitively start when we are ready. I am grateful for the wisdom, healing, and transformation that this inner child healing work has permitted in my life, and it brings me immense joy to walk through this journey with my clients. 

What is Inner Child Healing? A brief definition and history

Inner child healing is a therapeutic approach that seeks to reconcile the emotional wounding and trauma that many of us have experienced in childhood. The goal of this work is to form a different relationship with our younger self, which is healing to this part of ourselves (and our whole system), ultimately transmuting the pain that often continues to impact individuals into adulthood.  

Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, is credited with developing the concept of the inner child, as his work stressed the importance of integrating different aspects of one’s personality, including our childlike qualities and experiences. As it gained more prominence in the late 20th century, other pioneers in the concept of inner child healing emerged, including psychologists, Eric Berne, John Bradshaw, and Charles Whitfield. While Berne introduced the concept of the “Child ego state,” highlighting that individuals often carry unresolved childhood experiences and emotions into their adult lives, Bradshaw and Whitfield further popularized the concept through their books and workshops (i.e. Bradshaw’s “Healing the Shame That Binds You;” Whitfield’s “Healing the Child Within”).

The Science

In recent years, inner child healing has benefited from advancements in trauma research and neuroscience. This scientific understanding has provided further insights on the impact of childhood experiences on brain development, emotional regulation, and adult behavior. Studies show that adverse childhood experiences, especially those characterized by chronic stress, neglect, or abuse, can lead to changes in brain structure and function (i.e. in the areas of the brain that regulate emotion.) These experiences have been linked to difficulties with self- regulation, heightened reactions to stress, and an increased vulnerability to mental health disorders.

The beauty of this is in understanding our natural capacity to heal!

Neuroscience has revealed the plasticity of the brain: it’s ability to change and reorganize throughout life (i.e. a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity). Neuroplasticity implies that the brain can be reshaped through new experiences and therapeutic interventions (i.e. inner child healing’s use of guided imagery, visualization, and somatic experiencing to promote healing and growth.) Similarly, other interventions employed such as “reparenting” (i.e. providing self-compassion, love, and care to the wounded inner child) can activate brain areas associated with reward processing which helps to establish new neural connections for emotional healing, a sense of safety, and overall well-being.

Essentially, going inward and being the loving parent now that you always needed back then allows your brain and body a platform for healing from this early childhood trauma or dysfunction.

* Curious for more information on the brain, neuroplasticity, and complex trauma, click here.

How do I know my inner child needs me?

Some indicators related to the wounded inner child can look like:

  1. Difficulty trusting in yourself and others
  2. Perfectionism and overachievement
  3. Difficulty setting boundaries
  4. Self- Sabotaging behaviors
  5. Repetition of childhood dynamics
  6. Emotional reactivity
  7. Abandonment issues
  8. Emotional numbness or disassociation 

Wait, what will I be doing?

Some inner child healing methods I might use in session (to your personal comfort level) are:

  1. Guided Imagery:
    Guided visualization exercises to help access and reconnect with your inner child by exploring memories, emotions, and experiences from your past, and eventually engaging in healing dialogues with your younger self
  2. Inner Child Meditations:
    Meditative practices center on creating a safe and nurturing space within your own mind to connect with your inner child and often include some combination of visualizations, affirmations, and sending love and compassion to the wounded inner child.
  3. Journaling: Often completed between sessions and processed together, journaling can be a powerful tool to express the thoughts, emotions, and memories related to your childhood experiences; non-dominant hand-writing exercises can help allow for a more authentic exchange between you and your inner child
  4. Art or Sand Tray Therapy:
    Drawing, painting, and collage-making can help you to express your inner child’s experiences non-verbally, while sand tray therapy provides an outlet for projecting the inner child’s subconscious experiences.
  5. Inner Child Dialogue:
    Through visualization or letter writing
  6. Somatic Experiencing:
    Connecting with bodily sensations to gradually process and discharging trapped emotional energy
  7. Reparenting Techniques:
    Self-soothing practices, self- nurturing, and boundary setting practices to honor your inner child’s needs
  8. Inner Child Affirmations:
    Freeing your inner child from unhelpful thoughts to promote worthiness and compassion
  9. Mindfulness:
    Increasing present moment awareness to develop a non-judgmental attitude towards your inner experiences (and the experiences of your inner child)

Inner child healing has genuinely been one of the most transformative therapeutic modalities on my own healing journey. Not only has it has helped me to foster a sense of lightness and playfulness with myself and others, it has fostered a deep and more compassionate relationship with myself, supported my ability to emotionally regulate, and allowed me to feel safe and grounded in who I am. I know it can feel vulnerable to start down this path, but it is always my goal to take the pace that is most comfortable to my clients.

By harnessing the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity and engaging brain regions associated with regulation, attachment, and reward, inner child healing offers a path towards emotional regulation and growth. Inner child healing releases shame and guilt, increases self-awareness and self-compassion, and has the capacity to create a completely different relationship with yourself and others.

I am always here to answer any questions you may have about integrating this tool into your therapeutic process.

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