Do’s and Don’ts for Working with Survivors of Sexual Violence

working with survivors of sexual violenceSue J. Daniels, a therapeutic counsellor and author of Working with the Trauma of Rape and Sexual Violence, discusses the top 20 do’s and don’ts for working with survivors of sexual violence.

I remember the first client I ever saw; she was an ex-heroin addict who had been sexually violated by her brother when she was eleven years old. That particular client session was twenty years ago now, and I still remember her to this day.

The client told me that it wasn’t until she was fifteen that she realised what her brother did to her wasn’t normal. Before then, she only knew that she felt uncomfortable and that she didn’t like it but because she loved him she accepted it. During a school biology lesson she had a light bulb moment that it was wrong; so very wrong. After many years of drug addiction and self-sabotage, it took a further twenty years for her to fully disclose what had happened when she engaged in therapy for the first time.

When a person has been raped or sexually violated in any way, they can often live in their own private hell, unable to speak or recall their experiences easily. Having a trained professional to listen, with both their ears and their heart, can be priceless to that individual and is the beginning of healing and restoration for that person.

Every week we get calls from counsellors, policing teams, support workers and other professionals asking for information and/or advice about working with rape and sexual violence, so I’ve put together the following information to answer some of the questions previously asked:

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What every parent and professional needs to know

The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law by Tony Attwood, Isabelle Hénault and Nick Dubin.

This ground-breaking book explores issues that can arise surrounding the autism spectrum (ASD), sexuality and the law.

From the book, Larry Dubin

“I know the love and dedication that is required of parents raising a child on the autism spectrum. There are so many issues that are extremely difficult to navigate. I have great admiration for parents who work hard to find and pay for necessary services while helping their children deal with the many social, sensory, speech and language, and other issues that can arise. With my deepest respect for these special and dedicated parents, let me offer this advice in light of our family’s heart-breaking experience.

  • Recognize that your child is a sexual being. Although it may be difficult to deal with your child’s sexual issues, don’t ignore them, and seek professional help if necessary. Current research indicates that a variety of problems can arise with respect to sexual development for those on the autism spectrum.
  • Make clear to your child that certain behaviors could lead to an encounter with the criminal justice system and even to imprisonment. These behaviors include viewing child pornography on the internet, stalking, unwanted touching, having meltdowns in public and indecent exposure. Your child must understand the severe legal consequences that can occur when these types of charges are brought against people on the autism spectrum who may not understand that they were even committing a criminal act. It may be appropriate to place restraints on your child’s computer to ensure only lawful use.
  • Nick’s case was processed under federal law of the United States. Although most countries criminalize possession of child pornography, the elements of the crime, the possible defenses, and the potential prison sentences are not uniformly followed. Parents should become familiar with the laws pertaining to child pornography in the country in which they reside.
  • Be sure your child knows that if ever confronted by the police, with respect to having committed a crime, he or she should be polite and ask for a lawyer to be present without making any further statements. The trusting and naïve nature of people on the autism spectrum, who typically want to please authority, make them easy candidates to be taken advantage of by trained police officers who can question them without the protection of a lawyer. The law allows police officers to make certain false statements in order to get a confession that can and will be used against the person. There is also the danger that false confessions can occur. It is always best to have a lawyer present to represent the interests of a person on the autism spectrum before making any statements to law enforcement personnel.”

Why this Book Matters—

“As you will discover reading this book, we have been through a long and horrific ordeal. Our family has suffered in silence and shame for over three years. Many would wonder why we have actually chosen to publicly expose such an intimate and personal experience. The answer is that we wanted our experience to count for something; to have a larger meaning. Our purpose in writing the book is to bring forth an issue that has been in the shadows for too long.  In the process of preparing Nick’s legal case, we gathered significant information and research that we feel obligated to share with others who could benefit from it.”

Kitty and Larry Dubin

This book is an invaluable addition to the shelves of parents of children with ASD, mental health and legal professionals, teachers, caregivers and other professionals working with individuals on the spectrum. For more information, please visit our website.

Why Neuroscience for Counsellors?

Rachal Zara Wilson is a counsellor, social worker and author of the new Neuroscience for CounsellorsWe caught up with her for a quick chat about the book and why she wanted to write about such a complex topic. 

1.  Who do you think would benefit from reading this book?

Definitely counsellors, but also any other therapists as well.  The book is designed so that it has sections where the neuroscience is explained, and separate sections for counsellors and other therapists with suggestions on how to use this knowledge for the benefit of their clients in the session room.

Families of people who are experiencing mental health dysfunction may also be interested in the knowledge contained in this book, and also in the implications for how they can support their loved ones.

2.  Why did you write this book? Wilson_Neuroscience-fo_978-1-84905-488-1_colourjpg-print

I’ve always been interested in neuroscience; the brain is so fascinating and amazing, and capable of so much more than we’ve always been led to believe.  And of course, as a counsellor working with people, how the brain works has always been top of my mind.  The final motivator was having a child who was experiencing problems with their mental health, and I guess I just hoped to find something that would help him and others in a similar situation during the course of my research.

3.  So what’s so exciting about what you learned?

Probably the most exciting thing would be the brain’s capacity to change itself, known as brain plasticity.  The brain isn’t static, it’s more like a dynamic organ that is constantly changing for better or worse.  And what we do plays a huge part in how it changes.  How much stress we’re under, what we eat, the quality of our sleep, whether we exercise and how much, our living environments, and the presence or absence of early trauma in our lives are some of the things that contribute to the way our brain functions, and to its capacity for change, or plasticity.  I guess the most exciting thing is that we have control over this plasticity to a large degree, and we can therefore improve the quality of our brain function, our health and our lives.

4. Why don’t we know this stuff already?

Because neuroscience is a field in its infancy.  There’s a lot of learning coming through, but much of it’s wrapped up in scientific jargon, making it inaccessible to those of us who are not scientists.  And because there’s lots of different levels of looking at the brain, (both micro and macro,) different neuroscience specialties do not always integrate their specialist knowledge.  I think the benefit of this book is that it integrates the neuroscience into an overall big picture, while also drawing on this resource to come up with practical ways for integrating it into therapy.  It hasn’t been done before because it’s new, because it’s complex, and because integrating neuroscience with counselling and other therapies requires a knowledge of both fields.  I believe that in the future, all practitioners providing talking therapies are going to need to understand what neuroscience offers our professions, or risk becoming irrelevant.

5.  Why put it in a book?

This knowledge is meant to be shared.  All counsellors and therapeutic practitioners want best outcomes for their clients, and the more knowledge we have that can help people make positive change in their lives, the better.

6.  Is it complicated?

The neuroscience is complex, but the book is designed so that people who just want to know what it means for their practice can just read those sections, while those who want to understand how it all works can read up on the explanations for how all the scientific evidence fits together.  The book is written in the plainest English possible, and there is a glossary and diagrams at the back to help you fit it all together.

You can find out more about the book, read reviews and order your copy here.

Browse our latest collection of new and bestselling titles in counselling and psychotherapy

Here are our new and bestselling titles in counselling and psychotherapy. For more information on any of the books inside, simply click the title or cover image to view the full book page.

VIDEO: Rudy Simone’s 22 Things a Woman with Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know

Rudy Simone is on a mission to prevent AS/non-spectrum relationships from breaking down because of a lack of information. Check out this video to find out more and for a great overview of her latest JKP book, 22 Things a Woman with Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know.

In her latest book, Aspergirls author Rudy Simone covers 22 common areas of confusion for someone dating a female with AS and includes advice from her own experience and from other partners in real relationships. She talks with humour and honesty about the quirks and sensitivities that you may come across when getting to know your partner. All the pivotal relationship landmarks are discussed, including the first date, sex, and even having children.

‘Without a life story, a child is adrift, disconnected and vulnerable’ – Dr Bruce Perry on the value and power of the Life Story approach

By Dr Bruce Perry, adapted from the Foreword to the new book, Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children, by Richard Rose.

A fundamental and permeating strength of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships – the capacity to belong. It is in the context of our clan, community and culture that we are born and raised. The brain-mediated set of complex capacities that allow one human to connect to another form the very basis for survival and has led to the ‘success’ of our species on this planet. Without others or without belonging, no individual could survive or thrive. This need is so biologically powerful that when an infant is given signals from his caregivers that he is ‘not wanted’ and does not belong, the brain’s neural networks will activate a ‘shut down’ response and induce a ‘failure to thrive.’ And even with calories (but without the physical manifestations of ‘love’) this infant will lose weight and may die. This early life manifestation of the power of belonging has many related neurophysiological features later in life; the stress response and ‘reward’ networks in our brain are all interwoven with our ‘relational’ neurobiology. When familiar and welcoming human interactions are present, we feel pleasure and safety; we are regulated, we belong. When we are disconnected, when we are marginalized, we feel distressed, we literally feel pain.

This powerful, regulating, rewarding quality of belonging to a group, a family, a community and culture is not just focused on the present. We each feel a need to be connected to the people of our past; and without being able to draw on this connection – this narrative – it is almost impossible to envision hopes and dreams for a connected and safe future. It is the very part of our brain that is most uniquely human, the neocortex, that allows us to store, sort and recall our past as we construct the narrative that becomes the pathway from the past, and it is also the neocortex that envisions our pathways into the future. The neocortex allows humans to tell time; to create complex symbolic representations and associations that we have transformed into various forms of language; in music, art, writing (all inventions of our past) we are able to re-tell our story. The story of our people, where we come from and how we belong; our cortex helps us process, sort and sequence events and to store both our personal experience and the narrated experiences of others; the story of our parents; our parent’s story of our childhood before we could make narrative memory; the story of their parents; the history of how we belong.

Story telling is a unique and permeating quality present in all cultures across every era. The first and universal function of narrative in song, ceremony and story is how we have come to be, where we are connected, where we belong, where the connections were broken, lost, repaired. And in the cortically mediated narrative of storytelling of how we belong and how we have come to this point comes a powerful regulating, anchoring, reassuring and rewarding neurophysiological effect. It is no surprise that humans, the storytelling primates, are fascinated by narrative, poetry, novels and movies. The majority of our arts will portray personal narrative in some fashion.

This crucial aspect of the human condition – belonging, knowing your narrative – is damaged for many. And damaging the narrative of a people (cultural genocide) is at the core of a destructive, transgenerational process that has many negative manifestations; as odd as this may sound, the neurobiological consequences of stripping a community or culture of their language, customs, religious beliefs or child-rearing practices are devastating. The individual stress response systems and ‘reward’ neurobiology in a marginalized, disconnected and culturally fragmented group will be compromised and predisposes individuals of that group to a host of mental (e.g., depression, suicide), physical (e.g., diabetes) and social (e.g., increased substance abuse) problems. This is seen in Aboriginal communities in Australia, First Nations communities in Canada and Māori communities in New Zealand, among others. The neurobiological consequences of the destruction of narrative for a people are devastating.

It is the same with individual maltreated children. A fragmented, damaged, discontinuous personal narrative puts an individual child at risk. A child that is lost within her own family, community and culture is neurodevelopmentally vulnerable. Without a life story, a child is adrift, disconnected and vulnerable – their neurobiology of reward, stress regulation and relational interactions are all altered – in negative ways – without a cortically mediated coherent personal narrative. Our conventional efforts to ‘treat’ them will often be frustrated and ineffective. Sadly, most mental health interventions with maltreated children do not pay any attention to the child’s story. The focus is the manifestation of pathology – the symptoms. Make Billy stop swearing, hitting, running away – make Billy pay attention, be respectful, comply. We lose sight of how disconnected Billy is and often we actually contribute to the fragmentation and disconnection of his life story – a brief but telling story to illustrate how our efforts to ‘protect’ maltreated children can add to their confusion and disconnection. We often make these children worse.

At the beginning of an evaluation of a ten-year-old boy in foster care at our ChildTrauma Academy clinic, I asked him his name:

‘Which name do you want to know?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, I don’t know my name, I guess. My new mum calls me Thomas. My last mum called me Leon. And when I visit my grandmother she calls me Robbie.’

‘What name do you tell your friends to call you?’

‘I don’t have any friends at this new house.’

‘Do you know what your biological mother named you?’

‘I think she named me Baby.’

As I looked through the records I could see that he was born a few weeks early. He had been in the Pediatric ICU and had never been named by his mother. His discharge records stated: ‘Baby Boy Jones’. Ten placements and four ‘names’ meant he was disconnected and adrift with no personal narrative. But ‘fix him’ if he acts out. He is inattentive, disrespectful, struggles in school and won’t do as he’s told. Fix him. Find the right label. Give him the right drug. Our current approach to these maltreated children has lost sight of the essential element of healing – and that is reconnection. Connect to the present and increase the number and quality of relational opportunities but, as important, reconstruct your past connections, lay out your disconnects and clarify your personal journey to the present.

A life story approach such as that described in Richard Rose’s new book Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children helps children to reconnect by reconstructing their personal narratives, echoing the fundamental storytelling powers known to our ancestors who incorporated storytelling into all of their healing practices and rituals. In other words, storytelling therapy reflects not just knowledge of human healing; it is a manifestation of wisdom about humankind. The value and power of the life story approach, which is both developmentally sensitive and ‘trauma-informed’, cannot be underestimated. For any clinician working with our most disconnected children it is a wonderful way to help them reconnect – and heal.

Dr Bruce Perry, MD, PhD
Senior Fellow, The ChildTrauma Academy, Houston, TX
Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University , Chicago, IL

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Life Story Therapy: Externalising feelings and perceptions through a chronological process

Richard Rose, child trauma intervention specialist and author of Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children: A Model for Practice, shares some of his experiences of using life story work with traumatised children.

The unique concept of the life story approach is that it has a defined process:

The beginning (stage 1) requires the Therapeutic Worker to detect the past, to collate the stories of those around the child and to collect tangible items, such as first shoes, first books, cultural and religious material (e.g. Christening, Confirmation, Bar or Bat Mitzvah);

The middle (stage 2) provides the opportunity for the child to externalise their feelings and perceptions through a chronological process. To explore, challenge and conclude to the point that they can reframe their understanding and internalise their sense of self;

The end (stage 3) is the production of the book, the record of all that has been produced by the child, their carer and their Therapeutic Worker. The book becomes the history of the child and concludes with their hopes and desires for the future.

In short, all good stories have a beginning, middle and an end – therefore all narratives have a similar structure, time limited, focused and achievable. The child understands the sequence of discussion and can be helped to make sense of the past, present and plan for the future.

This second book uses case studies to illustrate the various exercises available to the life story Therapeutic Worker. It also details case studies and tools that might be useful to all those working within the social care and education fields. Although the case studies are short, I hope that they illustrate how useful such activities prove to be in communicating with traumatised children. I have considered attachment and trauma, their effect on the brain and on the development of the child, and have used case examples to explore these crucial areas.

One young person I worked with did not want to talk about the things that upset her. She was resistant to the idea of life story, but through the Jenga and Family Tree exercises (discussed more in my book), she was able to engage in play which required her to share information about her likes, dislikes, worries and hopes. By the third session, this young person stated, ‘I am ready now.’ From then on she produce thoughtful, insightful and distressing perceptions. As she talked these out – externalising them – she was able to illustrate her life and understanding on ‘wallpaper’ and, towards the end of the work, reframed her sense of self and internalised healthier thoughts of herself and those around her.

I also worked with an angry primary school child who had been hurt by everyone who had had previous ‘care’ of him. He was alert, poised and preoccupied with possibilities of hurt, either by me or his carer or by himself. There is still debate about re-traumatising children by visiting the past, and there is a possibility of this if the Therapeutic Worker is unsure, impatient, too patient, etc. By using memory boxes, fact/fiction/fantasy and heroism models, he was able to work through his anger and his pain. We used the Behaviour Tree to do the same by thinking about the source of his behaviour, the actions of those in his past and the consequences for those in his present and future.

I hope that by reading my new book, people will be able to use the examples of practice in their work with children. I trust that some readers will want to learn more about the positive outcomes for children who undertake life story, and how, if we can unlock the child’s past, we can release their potential for the future and help carers deal with the present. I am honored that Dr Bruce Perry has written a foreword to my book and have found his interest in my work both supportive and inspiring.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

JKP attends the BASPCAN 12th National Congress in Belfast

Last month, JKP Commissioning Editor Steve Jones and I packed our bags, books and banners and headed to the beautiful main campus of Queen’s University Belfast for the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’s 12th National Congress.

Photo: BASPCAN 2012 was held at the beautiful Queen's University Belfast campus.

Photo: Spring in bloom at the beautiful Queen's University Belfast campus.

The weather was mercifully kind for a few snatched days and, with attendance of over 700 delegates and thanks to the BASPCAN organisers, this year’s congress was a great success.

The JKP stand was busy and we were pleased with the keen interest in our new titles, particularly those on child protection, neglect and working with families. Titles from our series of books on ‘Safeguarding Children Across Services‘ were snapped up, particularly Brigid Daniel’s book, Recognizing and Helping the Neglected Child, following her eloquent keynote. For anyone who missed us at the conference, or was not able to attend, you can view some of the titles we had on display here.

It was fantastic to see so many of our authors at the conference, including Nicky Stanley, Brigid Daniel, Anne Stafford, Julie Taylor, Cathy Humphreys, David Westlake, Danielle Turney, Stephen Pizzey, Jane Wonnacott, Emma Kelly, Dendy Platt and Angie Hart, many of whom were giving presentations relating to their books.

Steve Jones managed to meet and talk to a good number of prospective authors, but for those who wanted to make contact at the conference but missed him, Steve’s email is You can also send him a message on Twitter @Steve_JKPBooks.

Finally, we’d like to offer our congratulations to Peter van der Linden, MSc, from the Netherlands who won our prize draw! A copy of Safeguarding Children Across Services by Carolyn Davies and Harriet Ward is on its way to you now.

We hope to see you at the next BASPCAN, and in the meantime do stay in touch. To keep up to date with information about new titles, related news and exclusive interviews and blog content, do sign up to our Social Work Newsletter.

You can also follow the latest new from JKP through our dedicated Social Work Facebook page and on Twitter.

Claudine Harris
Marketing Executive
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
May 2012

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Free to Download! Creative Drama activities to help children with emotional and behavioural problems

Book cover: Creative Drama for Emotional SupportHere, drama therapist Penny McFarlane shares two fun useful activities from her latest book, Creative Drama for Emotional Support, that will enable parents, carers, teachers, youth workers and others to help the little ones in their care manage difficult emotions and situations.

Mr. Angry Man

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The purpose of this activity is to help prevent the child from being overwhelmed by his emotions. By encouraging a way of considering the emotion as something separate and outside oneself, the intensity is lessened and the feeling becomes more controllable. Mr. Angry Man presents a fun and enjoyable way of using this externalization and most children I have worked with have found personifying the feeling, drawing it out and then interacting with this character to be a novel experience. Somehow it seems to appeal to the spontaneous and whimsical in a child.

This activity usually proves to be more effective if used with an individual child in a quiet and uninterrupted setting. I usually start the session with some discussion about the ‘big feeling’, which sneaks up on him from time to time. We talk about how annoying this is and how much better life would be if we could simply tell it (or him!) to go away: the problem being, of course, that we need to recognize ‘him’ before he pounces. By doing this it is as though the child and I have joined forces against the ‘big feeling’. I am on his side!

Most children then find it easy to visualize and draw this character. Depending on the child and situation, the enactment that follows can be both entertaining and empowering for a child. As Mr. Angry Man I sneak up on the child who is, for example, just beginning an argument with his parent/friend/teacher and dissolve in a heap when the child turns on me shouting ‘Go away’. Again most children find their ability to control this situation, as epitomized by my reaction, to be hugely funny as well as confidence building.

The Two Islands

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The transition from primary to secondary school can be a time of great anxiety for many children. By creating an ‘as if’ scenario the child can explore his apprehension and find out what it is that he is afraid of. More importantly, he can also discover how he can help himself to make this transition by looking at what he may need to take with him, actually or metaphorically.

Many children, on crossing over to the future island and sitting there for a while, discover that it is nothing like as scary as they had imagined. Some children, having made the transition, do not even want to go back to the original island. I remember one child with whom I was working, having crossed backwards and forwards a few times, decided that he was even going to throw away the stepping stones as he ‘didn’t need them anymore’.

Of course, this activity does not only apply to transition between schools but can be used with any imminent change in a child’s life. It can also be helpful in addressing, retrospectively, a period in which there may have been numerous changes. With one little boy who had changed school, house and family on many occasions, we created an island for each stage of his life. He then sat on each island in turn and remembered at least one good thing to take from that island. Using soft toys to represent all the good things, he hopped via stepping-stones to his island of now. Surrounded by the toys and with a big beam on his face, he announced that he would need a bigger island because there were ‘too many good things to fit in’.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

My Journal Journey – An Article by Kate Thompson, author of Therapeutic Journal Writing

Kate Thompson is a BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor and Supervisor in private practice, and a professional member of Lapidus UK. In 2010, she wrote Therapeutic Journal Writing as part of the JKP Writing for Personal Development Series.

In this short article, Kate shares her thoughts on process writing and includes some handy notes on writing for yourself and with a group.

My own journey from childhood diary writing in the 1960s to journal therapist in the 21st century has indeed been an almost lifelong process. This journey continues today, propelling me into the modern world of blogs and internet therapy which in some ways is a very natural development from journal writing.

I start from the premise that writing is always both a creative and a therapeutic act. I know that many people, including some of our greatest writers past and present, would agree with me, but others would not. I need to emphasise that therapeutic journal writing (almost a tautology, certainly the opposite of an oxymoron) is about process writing rather than product writing.

I have since childhood been one of those who felt ‘compelled’ to write. But I also want to stress that I am an intermittent journaller. I am full of admiration for those who do write every day but I do not – some of my clients write far more than I do.

[NOTE: Journal writing is sometimes referred to as a discipline or practice. One of the Myths of journal writing is:

“you have to do it every day”

You don’t. Often as possible is good, even five minutes counts, but there is no point in setting up unachievable goals – that way ‘failure’ lies and neither our clients nor ourselves need encourage that.]

So I have journalled on and off through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It is the way I process experience; it is the way I make sense of the world.

Writing the book was a personal and a professional journey. It is the culmination of more than15 years of professional practice. It brings together my twin passions for therapy and literature (I was a reader before I was a writer; I was a student and teacher of literature before I was a therapist). I wrote this book because this was a book I would have liked when I was training as a counsellor. At that time I had no idea that you could (‘were allowed to’) use journal writing as a therapeutic medium with clients. But I did know that it worked for me so it seemed natural to want to try. This book would have legitimized my instincts and given me the confidence to do it openly. Finding Kathleen Adams and The Center for journal Therapy in Colorado told me I was right.

In fact I’ve had three mentors who have encouraged me and supported me in this work:

Kathleen Adams, Gillie Bolton and Emmy van Deurzen.

I thank you all.

The journal container is big. People who come to my workshops or groups often show surprise about how broad the idea of journal writing is – the range of techniques at our disposal goes far beyond the descriptions of ‘what I did yesterday’. Journals can also include art, quotation and project plans as well as personal written stories or reflection leading to healing and growth.

Feedback forms often contain comments such as:

“I had a very narrow definition of journal writing – I know better now.”

I think my favourite comment on a feedback form is:

“I came with very low expectations – they were exceeded.”

I’m sure he meant it kindly.

There is one therapeutic journal technique which completes the reflective loop and does much to promote the integration of experience. It is a way of giving yourself a little written feedback after any journal entry:

The Feedback Loop

Read through your journal entry and then write a couple of sentences:

E.g. When I read this I notice…

When I read this I feel…

This to me is the key to therapeutic journal writing – I encourage anyone who keeps a journal to employ this technique which really completes the loop and can consolidate the insights and learning – you can try this at home immediately.

I always love to hear how people use journaling for themselves and with others, for personal and professional reasons – please tell me your experiences:

Read Kate Thompson’s Therapeutic Journal Writing Blog »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.