Cover image for Fire of the five hearts : a memoir of treating incest
Fire of the five hearts : a memoir of treating incest
Smith, Holly A., 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York ; London : Brunner-Routledge, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxi, 187 pages ; 21 cm
Introduction -- Ricky still loves Lulu -- Isabella -- The sins of the father are visited upon the daughters -- Laying down with the offender -- "To my haunting Ophelia, who brings me to my knees--tie my hands" : on esthetics, art, and spontaneous weeping -- On siblings and sex -- The therapist with child : transference and countertransference ad nauseum -- On finding a voice -- Falling from grace -- Spank me : on sex and the unthinkable -- From field to administration -- Pockets of compassion-- when mine are empty.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC560.I53 S656 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This book is about the influence of twenty years of work in the field of incest on a therapist's professional and personal life. It is comprised of individual cases, and touches upon topics including spirituality, sex between siblings, counter-transference, and incest teams. The author shares, in unadulterated prose, her experience as an incest therapist. This important, courageous work touches upon issues important to and resonant for mental health professionals treating incest and sexual abuse as well as the incest survivor or survivor's family member.

Author Notes

Holly A. Smith is the supervisor of the Boulder County Sexual Abuse Team in Colorado.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Suffering from an attack of an anxiety-driven illness, social worker Smith visited a doctor who told her that according to Chinese medical philosophy, every person has five hearts. Relieved, Smith decided that she'd need all five, because one wasn't enough to effectively do the work that had defined her life for the past 20 years. In her quest to bring light to what she calls the gravest and most destructive atrocity to be thrust upon children, Smith writes candidly about her experience as a social worker treating incest. The chilling, journal-like narrative begins with the tale of four-year-old Isabella, who was sexually abused by her father. It was Smith's fifth day on the job, and as she interviewed the shy girl, she was overwhelmed by her maternal need to protect the child. While waiting for the arrival of Isabella's foster family, Smith bathed the child in a sink, hoping to "polish and shine her" in an effort to detract from the impurity that had been forced upon her. She proceeds to fill the book with a series of equally troubling cases, in which Smith and her colleagues serve as ex post facto saviors, collecting the battered and bruised and trying to reassemble their lives. Written reflectively, the book acknowledges the fragility of those who are called to heal the broken. Smith, who also leads training sessions for new social workers, posits there is no recipe for resilience, but certainly this book can be added to the social worker's toolkit because, along with some of the distressing accounts of horror, there is also hope. (Sept. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

According to the author, one in four women experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. This shocking statistic provides the basis for this unusual but somewhat unsatisfying book, which is grounded in the author's admirable 20-year career treating victims of incest and teaching graduate-level courses (Denver Univ. Sch. of Social Work and Naropa Inst.). The book begins with the story of her entry into the field, a profession she movingly describes as a "calling." Vignettes drawn from actual case studies examine various manifestations of incest, including sibling abuse and teacher/therapist incidents. The personal anecdotes that follow are gracefully written but tend to be impressionistic and focused on gritty, disturbing details. The author's orientation toward psychotherapy is apparent, but few clinical insights into causes or treatments for such trauma are offered. Instead, her reflections are primarily self-revelatory, e.g., she asserts that such work makes her a "healthier" mother and, upon discovering a trusted subordinate's long-term, improper diversion of funds, remarks on her perceived similarity to an incest victim's parent. This emotionally honest and compassionate book about dealing with shame and its toll on professionals is recommended only for specialized collections. More general libraries should already hold Christine Courtois's Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy and Judith Lewis Herman's Father-Daughter Incest.-Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forwordp. IX
Acknowledgmentsp. XIII
Introductionp. XVII
Chapter 1 Ricky Still Loves Lulup. 1
Chapter 2 Isabellap. 9
Chapter 3 The Sins of the Father Are Visited upon the Daughtersp. 27
Chapter 4 Lying Down with the Offenderp. 43
Chapter 5 "To My Haunting Ophelia, Who Brings Me to My Knees--Tie My Hands": On Esthetics, Art, and Spontaneous Weepingp. 63
Chapter 6 On Siblings and Sexp. 75
Chapter 7 The Therapist with Child: Transference and Countertransference Ad Nauseump. 97
Chapter 8 On Finding a Voicep. 109
Chapter 9 Falling from Gracep. 127
Chapter 10 Spank Me: On Sex and the Unthinkablep. 145
Chapter 11 From Field to Administrationp. 159
Chapter 12 Pockets of Compassion ... When Mine Are Emptyp. 177