Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: Emotional Orphans: Healing Our Throwaway Children

Humans can bear an incredible amount of pain if we don't feel alone with it. -- Cate Shepherd 

Emotional Orphans: Children who are abused and neglected and for self-preservation have turned off their trust instincts and no longer have a connection with adults. Believing no one cares about them, they often act out either by hurting themselves or others and are often incorrectly diagnosed with behavior or mental health pathologies. This is my definition after reading Dr. Cate Shepherd's book.  

I've always had an interest in psychology. I am intrigued with how people think and the ways in which our core beliefs affect our attitudes and behaviors. As an emotional orphan myself, when I discovered Dr. Cate Shepherd's poignant book Emotional Orphans: Healing Our Throwaway Children, I knew it was a book I had to read. 

In Emotional Orphans, Dr. Shepherd takes us inside her thriving therapy practice and we meet several of the emotional orphans she's counseling. They start out rough around the edges, often downright scary but Dr. Shepherd is not only astute but incredibly compassionate as she wisely looks beyond the hardened facades of these emotionally damaged children in her care. Through consistent validation of not only their deepest hurts but also their dreams and gifts, she is able to break down the self-protecting barriers and get her patients to trust her and bond, often for the first time.  

But if life weren't challenging enough, Dr. Shepherd must also deal with headstrong supervisors and twisted office politics and worse, her own painful past. She finds help with wise mentor Dr. Harry Young. (We should all be so lucky.) As a trusted colleague, he offers pointers on how to help her patients but also becomes her therapist as she seeks to come to terms with the horrific pain she suffered growing up. 

This book offers tremendous insight into human behavior and the emotional needs we all have. Dr. Shepherd deftly shows how parents foist their unhealed traumas upon their young, repeating the cycle of abuse. She also humanizes the figures we see--and often avoid--every day. The thug with tattoos and leather waiting at the bus stop. The young mother at the 7-11 with a toddler on her hip and a cigarette between her fingers--society's emotional orphans. 

Of the many takeaway messages within this highly relevant book is that all humans have the same basic needs. We need to be loved and validated. We need to feel safe and respected. Dr. Shepherd shows us that people's sometimes terrifying outward behaviors are actually desperate cries for help. She then shows us how she gifts her patients with her respect and consistence with life-changing results. 

I wish every person on the planet could read this book. What a difference it would make in how we treat one another. 

Emotional Orphans is available on Amazon. Visit Cate's website for more information.

UPDATE: I just learned that Emotional Orphans will be free for the Kindle tomorrow, cyber Monday
As always, 


  1. "Dr. Shepherd shows us that people's sometimes terrifying outward behaviors are actually desperate cries for help."
    Sounds like a good way to remember or develop compassion and understanding towards people.
    I am putting this on my Kindle, I love psychology too Grace.

  2. Grace what an amazing book and how very relevant for educators. I will be suggesting this to colleagues and plan to read it may explain a lot with some folks I know and definitely with students, parents and work colleagues I know...such a tragedy in our world and especially here where hurting parents cannot support their children and we see them in school and in our classrooms...many of us are ill equipped to deal with sad but now there may be hope...thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you for sharing this book with us. It sounds like one I need to read.

  4. This books sounds like quite the read, although I will admit I stay away from the emotional stories. Maybe I haven't healed enough yet?
    It is amazing to me though that people can be so cruel, with our current media we see so much and it always is difficult to see much less understand.

  5. Grace, thanks so much for posting about this book. I am an emotional orphan, and your review made me very curious about this book. In fact, I downloaded the Kindle version, so thanks for that tip, too.

    @Barb - I know what you mean. Sometimes the emotional stories are too much, because we are still trying to cope with our own stories. Maybe the time will come when you'll want to read this, and will be able to.


  6. Hi Grace -
    Thanks for bringing our attention to this book. As a post script, I enjoyed reading the comments almost as much as the post itself. Everyone sounds so compassionate, full of thought and supportive. Thanks to all!


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