“If Someone Speaks there is Light:” The Words of the Witness in the Silence of Trauma

ISSN: 2210-6774 (Online)
ISSN: 2210-6766 (Print)

Volume 7, 4 Issues, 2017

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Adolescent Psychiatry

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Lois T. Flaherty
Harvard University Medical School
Cambridge, MA

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“If Someone Speaks there is Light:” The Words of the Witness in the Silence of Trauma

Adolescent Psychiatry, 2(1): 28-31.

Author(s): Giancarlo Galli, Daniela Alessi, Lucina Bergamaschi, Francesca Codignola, Ivana Longo, Angelo Moroni, Flora Piccinini and Anna Viani.

Affiliation: ApSA onlus, Piazza XXIV Maggio 7, 20136 Milan, Italy.


The aim of this paper is to think over the importance of words and their transformative power in the psychotherapeutic treatment of adolescent patients who have been abused and ill-treated within their families. In particular, we try to analyze the long and winding path leading from abuse to the restoring and the introjection of what we term “the law” in these patients. The law structures the inter-subjective space with meanings and is based on the recognition, the respect and the value of the otherness. It is an open, unsaturated, transformative work. The therapeutic setting, our law, is shaped to be the place of differences and agreements: it is a parental function, which separates and protects at the same time. In our adolescent patients who have experienced trauma, the identification process based on self-awareness cannot occur, and a pseudo-identity develops, based identification with the trauma. The psychotherapeutic setting is attacked as the place of recognition and evidence, involving the threatening fantasy of a catastrophic change. Working with these patients in treatment, the therapists primary function is to be a living witness and the therapeutic setting is the frame within which the denied truth can be recognized and testified. “If somebody speaks there is light” is a metaphor for the therapy.


Adolescents, psychological trauma, abuse, psychotherapy.

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Article Details

Volume: 2
Issue Number: 1
First Page: 28
Last Page: 31
Page Count: 4
DOI: 10.2174/2210676611202010028

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