The National Council of Psychotherapists
Parks Inner Child Therapy (PICT)
Parks Inner Child Therapy (PICT) was created specifically to help people recover from the trauma and damage of sexual, physical and emotional abuse during childhood. The harm may have been cause deliberately, caused by neglect or by inadequate parenting which was not intentional.
PICT has also proven to be extremely useful for resolution of some of the most challenging client problems.
What is Parks Inner Child Therapy?
PICT is a unique, powerful and versatile therapy model that can be most easily described as an evolving form of rapid cognitive therapy with a foundation in Transactional Analysis that incorporates Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) to aid rapid positive change. The focus of PICT is to empower clients by assisting them to resolve past issues that have left them with restricting feelings and behaviours. Penny Parks developed the basis for this unique therapy model from her own experience of self-recovery and is the author of two books, ‘Rescuing the Inner Child’ (a popular self-help book) and ‘The Counsellor’s Guide to Parks Inner Child Therapy’.
What is the therapeutic experience like?
The most significant feature of PICT is that it can bring about change humanely because there is little or no disclosure of the original events. With PICT there is no need to recover repressed memories or examine all known memories; both of these can be time consuming and often serve only to re-traumatise clients, which may also be harmful. PICT addresses the effects of the abuse rather than focussing on the detail and therefore allows clients to retain their privacy, dignity and work comfortably to bring about beneficial changes in their lives. PICT contains thorough, quick and effective techniques that can bring about lasting change.
Information, specific visualisation work and sometimes written work done at home are the foundation stones of the PICT method. It is worth mentioning that PICT visualisation work can be done by anyone because it is not based solely on creating visual images. Depending on the individual PICT counsellor/therapist sessions can last between one to two hours.
A further advance of this humane approach, offered by a few advanced PICT therapists, is that a number of consultations can be held on a single day and the whole of the therapy condensed and completed over a small number of consecutive days. It is possible for clients to achieve resolution in a very short time and move on. This form of PICT is called PICT Quick Change Therapy.
Most clients enjoy the PICT method and are quickly aware of their achievements. PICT therapy can be relaxing, satisfying, with times for laughter to counterbalance the more serious moments. Clients also learn methods they can use effectively in their own lives for further self development once formal therapy is complete.
How does PICT differ from other ‘Inner Child’ work?
‘Rescuing’ was written in England in 1990 utilising material from some of Mrs Parks’ English clients. It was the first book in England to introduce utilising the ‘inner child’ concept to resolve childhood abuse issues. Within the next few years, books from America were published also acknowledging the value of the ‘inner child’ therapeutic concept. It is now widely accepted and many professionals have applied a variety of ‘inner child’ concepts into, or along with, whatever standard therapy models they use when dealing with childhood abuse issues.
PICT, on the other hand, is a complete therapy model rather than just sections of information to be woven into or added to other models. PICT follows specific, although flexible, visualisation structures to easily enable the ‘adult’ part of the client to communicate with the ‘child’ part. PICT recognises that information needs to be passed on to that younger self – to that time in childhood when negative behaviours, feelings, beliefs and perceptions started and still remain strongly lodged. The adult part gives specific information, support and love that was needed at the time of the trauma, which creates the important shift in perspective that is needed to begin resolution of the event.
Standard therapy models
Utilising the ‘adult’ to communicate with the ‘child’ works much more quickly and thoroughly to resolve memories, feelings or unwanted behaviours than the two most standard routes used in many therapy models. The first standard route encourages the client to talk about whatever is on their mind with hope that they will eventually get onto a subject that leads to self-actualisation. The second gives the client information about what is the most positive way of handling their unwanted behaviour/feelings. The first model may take a very long time, for most people are uncomfortable, and therefore reluctant, to discuss memories, feelings or behaviours that are frightening and overwhelming. The second model, in my opinion, is rather patronising inasmuch as it infers that the person had never before thought of looking at life in a positive manner. Most adults understand the concept of handling behaviour/feelings in positive ways, the problem is that people with deep-seated negative beliefs are not able to apply that information in the areas they need it most. That inability creates frustration and further self-recrimination; in some cases people then begin to think they are beyond help.
In contrast to the first model, PICT is directive in a respectful way, enabling clients to broach stressful subjects fully supported and experience resolution without even having to discuss distressing details. In contrast to the second model, PICT therapists guide clients to give appropriate positive information to their younger selves, consequently altering the original perceptions of shame, blame and guilt, which in turn releases anger/rage. When shame, blame, guilt and anger are out of the equation it is relatively simple for the client to apply positive information to their life.
PICT areas of expertise
Some people need further anger work and PICT has a variety of techniques to assist clients with anger. From dealing with anger that is strongly repressed (rendering them dissociated, to varying degrees, from their feelings), through to clients who are bristling with strong anger that is spilling onto everyone around them.
There are also techniques to assist resolution to a wide range of bereavement and loss experiences – abortion, miscarriage, murder, parents alive physically, but dead emotionally, etc. PICT therapists who have in the past trained with agencies who deal specifically with bereavement, have reported that the PICT techniques cover a wider range of experiences and address issues at a deeper level.
People who have Compulsive Behaviour Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or those who abuse food, drugs or alcohol, who self harm or have experienced Ritual Abuse, find the PICT method addresses their problems thoroughly, more quickly and with less discomfort than some other models they’ve tried. Most of those people are very relieved to find resolution to their problems without the use of drugs.
Comments from PICT therapists
PICT therapists are happy to have found a therapy model that is flexibly structured, allowing client individuality to be accommodated, while at the same time, providing the therapist with guidance and measurable results. Because PICT works so quickly, waiting lists become manageable and therapist ‘burn out’ reduced.
“I have found PICT to be the most useful course I have done since my training and wish that I had know of and done it sooner. For the first time I feel empowered to address childhood abuse issues and have been encouraged by the effectiveness of this therapy. PICT empowers workers and clients alike, reduces the time in which clients need to be seen and allows them to leave the service never to return.” L.K. – CPN
“PICT transforms the way you work with clients, because you know you can get through very traumatic material in a relatively short time.” S.D. – Psychotherapist
“I have found PICT to be an excellent alternative to more traditional models used with clients who have experienced abuse. I have found it to bring fast results, changes more significant, profound and lasting than either myself or the client expected – unlike the temporary and superficial progress we have accepted in the past.” J.H. – Occupational Therapist
“PICT is a structure that is easy to follow and it works! With the scripting of exercises I never feel at a loss.” E.S. – Community Occupational Therapist
“I have found that since using PICT tools my work has become far more effective. I have noticed positive change taking place very quickly and significantly, with very few unpleasant emotional experiences for my clients. As the therapist I find myself continually refreshed and renewed using PICT methods, whereas before, work with people facing abuse issues could be highly stressful to myself. D.L. – Psychotherapist
“If you have always wanted to find a treatment approach that enables people to dispel mistaken beliefs, while at the same time acknowledges the person’s feelings that they have forever held inside, an approach that not only tells you how it is, but what to do about it, then PICT will mark the end of your search. PICT is an empowering, energising experience for both therapist and client.” S.K. – Senior Occupational Therapist in Community Mental Health. Clinical Specialist.
The PICT Advanced Practitioner Training
Since Penny Parks published her two books, readers who either wanted to find a therapist who worked in the PICT model or people who wanted to be trained to use the PICT model, have contacted her. The PICT Association and Directory were created to assist with inquiries. Now, The Penny Parks Foundation, is currently canvassing for more PICT therapists to meet the demand for this fast, thorough and humane therapy model.
The PICT Advanced Practitioner Training is spread over 11 two-day modules held once a month. It is an experiential course and therefore it is recommended that potential students with significant unresolved personal issues apply for PICT therapy before embarking on the PICT training course.
Throughout the course participants can expect to learn, laugh, cry, change, develop and relax. The training format is explanation, demonstration and practice. Participants will leave the course with a full ‘tool kit’ and the confidence to use it comfortably and effectively. As the course is designed to create Advanced Practitioners learning specialist skills, prospective students will have completed some form of basic counselling training to apply for placement.
Penny Parks teaches two PICT courses per year, the first, starting in April is held on weekends at the University of Essex, near Colchester. The second, starting in September is held on weekdays in Norfolk. Additionally, new PICT Trainers from various locations in England will be available by late Spring.
A course syllabus and application form are available upon request from:
The Penny Parks Foundation,
Suffolk, IP14 6PT.