Interview with J. Patrick Gannon

Why did you write Soul Survivors?
I became intensely interested in working with adult survivors of child abuse when I took my first job out of graduate school. The job was to start an outreach mental health program for children and their families in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. This neighborhood, located next to the Civic Center in SF, was a crime-ridden, drug infested, multi-cultural urban oasis that was off the beaten path for the common San Francisco tourist. But the Tenderloin was also home to some 3000 families, many of whom were new immigrants from Southeast Asia following the end of the Vietnam War. It quickly became apparent that child abuse and neglect were major problems facing children and families and our job was to be the primary intervention and treatment program to protect children and help their parents change the abusive parenting behaviors that they learned from their parents. Early on, we decided to intervene on two levels: help the children by treating their emotional problems and help the parents discover the origins of their abusive behavior. The link between the parents' childhood and their abusive parenting behavior was a relatively new idea back in the latter 1970s. As we worked with more and more families, this linkage became more clear and we developed new approaches to treatment that became the genesis for Soul Survivors. Helping the parents be better parents by helping them face what happened to them as children became our primary child abuse prevention strategy. Prevention is the holy grail of community mental health programs and was always my primary reason for becoming a psychologist. Our program, The Tender Lion Family Program became a state-wide model of what a community mental health outreach program could be. And it still exists today.
Are you a survivor of childhood abuse?
No, I was not physically or sexually abused as a child. Nor was I neglected. Was I emotionally abused? At times, yes. My family reflected the type of dysfunction that comes with having addicted parents. My father developed an alcohol problem and my mother had a prescription pill problem tied to on-going medical issues. Being in an Irish-Catholic family, there was not a lot of understanding about addictions or personal growth. It was a sin to feel pride. Feelings were not always respected or considered. Compliance and obedience were the guiding principles of family life. If you had different thoughts from your parents, you were wrong. And if you were wrong, you were "being bad". It was that simple. As result, my siblings and I suffered from low self-esteem and anxiety. Shame may have been the abiding destructive affect that all of us kids experienced. At times, it felt that you could never be good enough. When I started working with child and adult survivors, I identified with many of their feelings although never to the extent that I felt traumatized by what I experienced in childhood. In a sense, I experienced just enough of the emotional abuse to want to do something about it. That is why I became a psychologist and ultimately, why I wrote Soul Survivors.
When you're not writing or practicing psychotherapy, how do you spend your time?
I have two sons who are now teenagers that require a lot of time. My father was not that present in my life. He worked hard and was physically present on weekends but because of his introverted personality and eventually his drinking, he was not very engaging or involved in our lives. I remember telling my mother at some point that I didn't really know him. I always wanted to be a different father than what I experienced and that means putting in the time to be involved. That is my choice so until they head off to college, I spend most of my free time being a father.

But I do have other interests to balance out my life. I do oil painting. I love sports. I am a sports fan and spend much time with my boys watching football, baseball and basketball. I also exercise--mostly bike riding and exercising at the gym. My wife and I love movies, socializing with friends and taking vacations, with and without our kids. I also love reading, usually non-fiction and especially history and science. Overall, it is a full life. I am very grateful. My decision to become a psychologist was the best decision I could have made because it made me a better person, gave me a sense of meaning and purpose and provided for my family.
Published 2014-03-03.
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Books by This Author

Soul Survivors: A New Beginning For Adults Abused As Children
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 197,020. Language: English. Published: December 25, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Abuse, Nonfiction » Psychology » Child Abuse
Soul Survivors: A New Beginning for Adults Abused As Children is the republishing of a classic self-help manual for adult survivors and described as a "model of clarity and organization" by PW. This eBook edition serves as the "Big Book" for an international self-help group called ASCA (Adult Survivors of Child Abuse) and includes all meeting materials allowing anyone to start an ASCA meeting.