Have you suffered from emotional abuse? Have you been neglected? Does it affect your day to day life? Here is some useful information you will find helpful.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is the ongoing emotional maltreatment or emotional neglect of a child. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse and can seriously damage a child’s emotional health and development. Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them. Children who are emotionally abused are usually suffering another type of abuse or neglect at the same time – but this isn’t always the case.

Emotional abuse includes;

  • Humiliating or constantly criticising a child
  • Threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names
  • Making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child
  • Blaming, scapegoating
  • Making a child perform degrading acts
  • Not recognising a child’s own individuality, trying to control their lives
  • Pushing a child too hard or not recognising their limitations
  • Exposing a child to distressing events or interactions such as domestic abuse or drug taking
  • Failing to promote a child’s social development
  • Not allowing them to have friendsThe AOC/902
  • Persistently ignoring them
  • Being absent
  • Manipulating a child
  • Never saying anything kind, expressing positive feelings or congratulating a child on successes
  • Never showing any emotions in interactions with a child, also known as emotional neglect.

Just like child neglect, there are two different types of emotional abuse which affect children in different ways.

Passive Emotional Abuse

When a parent or carer denies their child the love and care they need in order to be healthy and happy it’s known as “passive” abuse. It’s just as damaging, but it can be harder to spot than “active” abuse. The definitions for passive emotional abuse and emotional neglect are very similar.

Five categories of passive emotional abuse have been identified – (Barlow and Schrader McMillan, 2010):

Emotional Unavailability;

Where a parent or carer is not connected with the child and cannot give them the love that they deserve and need.

Negative Attitudes;

Such as having a low opinion of the child and not offering any praise or encouragement.

Developmentally Inappropriate Interaction with the Child;

Either expecting the child to perform tasks that they are not emotionally mature enough to do or speaking and acting in an inappropriate way in front of a child.

Failure to Recognise a Child’s Individuality;

This can mean an adult relying on a child to fulfil their emotional needs and not recognising that the child has needs.

Failure to Promote Social Adaptation;

Not encouraging a child to make friends and mix among their own social peers.

Active Emotional Abuse

When someone intentionally scares, demeans or verbally abuses a child it’s known as “active” abuse. This requires a premeditated intention to harm a child.

Active emotional abuse has been defined as:

  • Spurning (Rejecting)
  • Terrorising
  • Isolating
  • Exploiting or Corrupting
  • Ignoring (Sometimes not included)

(Barlow and Schrader McMillan, 2010)

Who Does It Effect?

Children from any background can be at risk of emotional abuse. But some children are more at risk than others – particularly when the family is under additional stress or pressure like:

  • Mental health problems
  • Domestic abuse
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Relationship problems or marital break-ups
  • Family arguments and disputes
  • Financial problems or unemployment
  • Immigration, moving away from friends and family or being isolated
  • Poverty
  • Language problems because of communication difficulties or not speaking English

Emotional abuse doesn’t just happen at home. Children can also be emotionally abused by adults at school, sports or clubs but this isn’t very common.

Facts & Statistics

  • 1 in 14 children have experienced emotional abuse by a parents or guardian.
  • Over 19,000 children were identified as needing protection from emotional abuse last year.
  • Emotional abuse is the 2nd most common reason for children needing protection.
  • In a study of 1000 women aged 15 years or older 36% had experienced emotional abuse whilst growing up.
  • 39% reported experiencing emotional abuse in a relationship in the last 5 years.

Emotional abuse statistics have been on the rise since 2009. From the following table you can see the rise from 2009 – 2013 in the UK alone.

Year Average number of cases
2009 9,100
2010 10,800
2011 11,400
2012 12,330
2013 13,640
  • One in 14 young adults (6.9%) experienced emotional abuse during childhood.
  • One in 14 children aged 11-17 (6.8%) have experienced emotional abuse.
  • Neglect was the most prevalent type of maltreatment in the family for all age groups.

Examples of People Who Have Been Emotionally Abused or Neglected

I was emotionally abused for 10 years” – Katie Mulloy.

Stylist Magazine

“My ex-boyfriend would tell me that I was too expensive..”Lacey’s Story

Hidden Hurt

“Emotional abuse is more insidious than other abuses and just as damaging”Nancy Globus-Goldburg

Springtide Rescources

“The Most Dangerous Time”Stories from 5 women: Roia Atmar, Faliana Lee, Kay Schubach, Kim Gentle & Gee Bailey.

The Guardian Newspaper.

The AOC/876

How Can it be Treated?

The AOC can help you if you are or have been emotionally abused and are still feeling the effects. We are HCPC (Health & Care Professions Council) registered and also members of BACP (The British Association of Dramatherapists). We have a team of highly skilled, professional counsellors and associate therapists to help you through with the use of creative art therapies.

Creative art therapies involve using arts in a therapeutic environment with a trained therapist. You do not need to have any artistic skill or previous experience of dance, drama, music or visual art to find arts therapies helpful. The aim isn’t to produce a great work of art, but to use what you create to understand yourself better. In arts therapy, your therapist helps you to create something — such as a piece of music, a drawing, a play or a dance routine — as a way of expressing your feelings, often without using words.

Creative art therapies can be offered in group sessions, one-to-one or with family therapy depending on your own preference. We will match you to our best suited therapist/counsellor to help you with any of your issues. All our counselling is strictly confidential and nothing said in the therapy space will leave the room.

There are many different modalities in which creative arts can be offered to you ranging from the following;

Offers profound reflection on who we are and the roles we play. These art forms are also centrally concerned with how people change people, for better or worse, and the sort of connections they make with each other, e.g. superficial, conflictual, brutal, deadened or deeply enriching. Drama and puppetry can also offer vital insights into ‘situation’: how past situations are still colouring those in the present. Working with puppets is ideal for circumventing a reluctance to speak about feelings.

Sculpture offers a person the power to speak through touch. Its power lies more in the emotional resonance of substance. Sculpture invites a sensual engagement with the world. Clay expresses qualities and forms of feeling, directly, plainly, free of the clutter of any associations of the everyday.

Literal words can misrepresent, underplay, hide rather than reveal and frequently offering only approximations to any recalled experience. In poetry as a multi-sensorial form, ‘amplifies the music of what happens’ (Seamus Heaney). ‘A poetic basis of mind’ (Hillman) can lead to a far more profound experience of life.

Clients choose from a whole world of miniature people, animals and buildings and arrange them in the controlled space of the ‘theatre of the sandbox’. This theatre then offers a profound overview of important life issues. Once feelings are organised and externalised in sandplay, they can be contemplated from a distance, and then assimilated.

The dynamic forms in music are recognisable as vital forms of felt life: the rises and falls, the surges and flooding’s, the tensions and intensities, the changes in tempo, the dissonances, harmonies and resolutions. We know these forms intimately in our emotional experiencing. Music can convey the full qualitative and energetic aspects of an important relationship, atmosphere crucial event, or ongoing situation.

Forms encapture the complex inter-relations between time, weight, space, flow. We know these forms intimately in our emotional experiencing, so much so that both movement and still pose can provoke all manner of resonance. It is also possible to work with what the body is already communicating symbolically, whether through posture, gesture and gait, or through illness and injury. Movement is integral to the very process of change.


If you would like to receive counselling from The AOC please fill out on of our online referral forms and send to support@theaoc.org.uk You will have a choice of 3 different types of referral forms;

  1. For individuals or couples
  2. Family referral form
  3. Group referral form

Please select the referral form most suited to you i.e. if you would like group therapy, fill out the group referral form.

Simply click the following link to find out more information and complete one of our referral forms:


We provide our clients with high-quality, evidence based expertise in the form of personal therapy and counselling. To help anyone suffering with any type of eating disorder.

Here is an example of a creative art therapy from The AOC in more detail;


Creative Arts Therapies (drama, art, movement, music therapy or psychodrama)

Dramatherapy is a form of psychological therapy/psychotherapy in which all of the  performance arts are utilised within the therapeutic relationship. Dramatherapy addresses a wide range of personal and emotional difficulties. Clients who are referred to a dramatherapist do not need to have previous experience or skill in acting, theatre or drama. Dramatherapists are trained to enable clients to find the most suitable medium for them to engage in group or individual therapy to address and resolve, or make troubling issues more bearable. Dramatherapists work in a wide variety of settings with people of all ages:

  • In schools
  • In mental health
  • In general health and social care settings
  • In prisonsThe AOC/347
  • In hospices
  • In the voluntary sector
  • In private practice

Dramatherapists are both artists and clinicians and draw on their training’s in theatre, drama and therapy to create methods to engage clients in effecting psychological, emotional and social changes.  The therapy gives equal validity to body and mind within the dramatic context; stories, myths, play-texts, puppetry, masks and improvisation are examples of the range of artistic interventions a dramatherapist may employ.  These will enable the client to explore difficult and painful life experiences through a creative-expressive approach. Dramatherapists are vtrained in both psychological and arts-specific assessment and evaluation techniques. They are committed to generating practice-based evidence and deliver sound evidence-based practice.

The British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth)

We can also offer our clients integrative counselling;

Integrative Counselling

Integrative therapy, or integrative counselling is a combined approach to psychotherapy that brings together different elements of specific therapies. Integrative therapists take the view that there is no single approach that can treat each client in all situations. Each person needs to be considered as a whole and counselling techniques must be tailored to their individual needs and personal circumstances.

Integrative counselling maintains the idea that there are many ways in which human psychology can be explored and understood – no one theory holds the answer. All theories are considered to have value, even if their foundational principles contradict each other – hence the need to integrate them.

The integrative approach also refers to the infusion of a person’s personality and needs – integrating the affective, behavioural, cognitive, and physiological systems within one person, as well as addressing social and spiritual aspects. Essentially, integrative counsellors are not only concerned with what works, but why it works – tailoring therapy to their clients and not the client to the therapy.

Top Health Tips

  1. Stand up to the abuser– Just like the playground bully, emotional abusers don’t like to be challenged and may back down if you challenge their abusive tactics.
  2. Regain control of the situation by acting confident and looking the abuser in the eye.
  3. Stay Calm – Speakin a calm, clear voice and state a reasonable expectation such as, “Stop teasing me. I want you to treat me with dignity and respect.”
  4. Be more assertive – Practise being more assertive in other situations so you can be more assertive when being emotionally abused.
  5. Remember you’re not alone – Always keep this in mind and remember the abuse is not your fault.
  6. Contact us – The AOC can help your overcome and put a stop to the emotional abuse, call or email us: 01384 211 168 / support@theaoc.org.uk