These situations are tough.
There is no "right" way to help a struggling child. There is no one to blame. Everyone is doing the best they can in a scary, frustrating, and draining situation. I'm not here to judge and shame parents- you probably do enough of that all on your own. Actually, a big part of my job is helping parents to stop blaming themselves when things are difficult! Let me explain.
When I worked in a therapeutic boarding school, 8 pre-teens became "my girls." Their parents scattered all across the world, I was "their person" in day-to-day life. It wasn't the same as being a parent; I still went home at the end of the day. And I didn't get to be around after they left the program, when life got good for them. But there's something profound that happens to your heart when you are the 24/7 on-call, go-to person for a troubled 9-year-old who hasn't seen her family in a full year.
In addition to being wonderful, my girls were fearful, self-destructive, moody, and tough as nails. I've been yelled at, hit, kicked, bitten, spat on, lied to, stolen from, and called all the names in the book. I know about losing sleep worrying, feeling broken down and defeated when yet another strategy doesn't work, getting angry calls from teachers, and being woken up in the middle of the night in full-on crisis. I know the feeling of chasing after someone who doesn't want to be caught, holding someone who wants to hurt herself, loving someone who wants to disappear. I know the heartbreak of it. The aloneness and fear, the immense frustration, confusion, and self-blame, the not knowing what to do. I've been to these dark and despair-filled places, and I've also come out on the other side with families.
I've seen kids go from angry and defiant to warm, respectful, and emotionally mature. I've watched healthy boundaries grow. I have witnessed children and parents bond in ways previously considered unimaginable. Families getting progressively more emotionally steady, empowered, and wise.
I found Theraplay® after many, many other treatment models had failed my girls. Most of these kids had been hospitalized several times and had been in therapy for years. I sought out advanced training in Theraplay because I cared so deeply for these children, and because my instincts told me their lives could be better. My instincts weren't wrong. Theraplay profoundly shifted how I understood their problems and what I did to help them. It was the last-ditch effort that changed their lives. And you know what? It changed my life, too!
Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Painting, 2009, Rhode Island School of Design
Master's of Social Work, 2011, University of Michigan School of Social Work
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of North Carolina
Certified Intermediate Level Theraplay® Practitioner
Theraplay is form of play therapy that focuses on cultivating a joyful, attuned, and influential relationship between parent and child. Theraplay uses the foundational building blocks of attachment, including eye contact, touch, movement, and voice, to deepen a child's most important relationships.
I completed the Level One Theraplay & Marshack Interaction Method (MIM) 4-day hands-on training in 2014 and the 3-day Level Two training in 2016. Over the past 3 years, I have submitted videotaped recordings of my sessions for review and feedback from a skilled supervisor. The Theraplay Institute currently recognizes me as a Certified Intermediate Level Theraplay Practitioner.
Family Centered Treatment (FCT) is an intensive in-home model of therapy for families in crisis. FCT is based directly on Family Systems Theory, the theory that shifting family relationship dynamics is powerful in resolving any one family member's issues. FCT treats families as a whole, interconnected system.
From 2012-2013 I trained in FCT. This process was highly structured and also required the consistent use of videotaping my sessions for review with a certified trainer.
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