Alternative Therapy for Children Practice

Main guideline : the child leads the process.

Goals of the process : help children to

1- cure from any disturbances or illnesses

2- express their feelings

3- experience happy relationships and make friends

4- seek help when needed

5- gain independence relevant to their age

6- improve their self-esteem

7- engage in physical, manual and intellectual activities

8- take care of themselves

9- face problems that can happen to them.

Freedom as a basic therapeutic condition :

Freedom is the starting point. As we can't guess what a child feels and thinks, especially at the beginning, by letting the child free ce is given a chance to clarify what ces needs are, so we will be mainly concerned with not interfering with the child's orientations because for a confused child finding ceself can be already a difficult task. If the child seems uncertain, we can offer a variety of things to do to help ce find ces way, especially when the child is not yet familiar with the place.

Similarly to the total freedom about what to talk about in adult psychoanalysis at the beginning of each session, freedom as a starting point is designed to help the child lead toward what ces main problems are which are causing the symptoms of disturbances or illnesses : identify the problems then resolve them. Little by little the child will aim by ceself to these most difficult points because ce knows naturally that they stand in the way of ces recovery. The child knows better than anybody else what these hard issues are, because each person is unique and has lived particular experiences. Only one person knows all about a given child's past from the very beginning of birth and even before : the child ceself.

Dynamics of the action :

1- be available to build a relationship with the child.

2- let the child guide the process and follow ces needs as they appear.

3- give priority to any therapeutic activity : anything that will help the child suppress all the blockings and let out the emotional burden buried since the traumas occurred.

4- prevent any harm that the child might do to ceself or to other children.

Build a personalized relationship :

   "In the world you are only one person, but for a child you can be the world" (Brenda Wiggins).

For the child the main therapeutic agent is ces relationship with ces preferred assistant. "Successful therapy is a highly personalized relationship between two people" (F. R. Schreiber). Each assistant is free to build a relationship with a child by mutual choice and to manage the best ce thinks it is for the child's needs as long as the children's rights described here are not forgotten : choose activities when together, time spent together, ways of coping with the child's difficulties. The assistant must be inhabited by a definite feeling of love for the child ce chooses to care for and must have pleasure to be in the company of the little person.

With each new child a new story unfolds and it needs a good measure of humility because at the beginning we might not know what made the little person appear in such a degraded condition : we have to gain ces trust and little by little reach the core of the most traumatic events in ces past to free the child from them.

If for some reason an assistant wants to terminate the relationship ce has with a child or wants to leave the project, this must be first analyzed and proceeded carefully with for the child's sake.

You can see when the relationship is well established once the child looks for you, looks in your direction to see you, is interested by you, needs you, and is at ease with you : ce is casual and trusting with you and ces behavior is unrestrained, spontaneous and sincere. You in turn, when you feel ready for it, can express a commitment to the little person by saying you like ce very much and care for ce, and you want to stand there to help ce, and your offer of support is unlimited in time. This is then reassuring for the child as it is a moral contract that works as a promise of permanency and stability that will remain in effect as long as the child needs your assistance.

Follow the child's needs :

This is done by pragmatic approach. We need to adapt to each child and not the contrary, and rely on flexibility for being efficient as different persons have different needs.Experience will tell what are the most efficient ways and what kind of children we are best helpful with.
First we try to meet the children's needs (physical, emotional, intellectual), believing that if well attended to they will find their own way toward recovery, the main concern for us being to not block their way : children as human beings at the beginning of their life have the capacity to regain what they would have been if they had not been damaged by somebody in their milieu, and resume their life track where they had to leave it.

When therapeutic experiences can occur ?

"All events and situations occurring in the living environment are seen as therapeutic opportunities" (Family Network Program of the Lee Mental Health Center, Florida).
Besides therapy sessions (regularly planned or on call), all real life situations can be therapeutic if lived as "corrective emotional experiences" (B. Bettelheim), i. e. everyday living situations can recall for the child former destructive, painful, degrading, or frightening events ce had to suffer from, assistants must then encourage whatever emotion surfaces in the child to be fully released in order to recover from them. This does not mean having to approve everything a child does but rather support the child's expression as a necessary step in the course of recovery for mental and physical health. Active Listening (T. Gordon) is a method of dialoguing with the child that allows to go as far as possible.

But being able to remember and speak about traumas of the past is not sufficient for healing : in addition emotions and feelings associated with these facts have to be allowed to be re-experienced as well, as it is those negative affects that are the cause of symptoms as long as they are kept repressed in the child.
"It is our experience that children are usually eager to talk once they feel it is safe to do so, and that they are frequently more perceptive and honest than adults" (C. Sager & H. Kaplan).
The children need to know that what they tell is accepted and validated by the adult they are confiding to, and that all the importance of what they were submitted to is recognized, including for the long term consequences.

Children must experience a sense of mastery and control over the events in their life otherwise they will fall in the habit of being passive and helpless, which is detrimental to their self-esteem and to their future as adults. Therefore assistants must always look for whatever can empower the children with their own life and restore them to the status of persons, and avoid anything that might make the children feel treated like objects in the hands of others.
Under the domination of adult(s) who harmed them, such children have lost all power over their own life. Thus to restore them to mental health their situation must be reversed.
Any opportunity is good for proposing them to make a decision about whatever regards them personally, but if needed allow them time to think and find what they prefer best, and also allow them the right to hesitate or to be undecided. In such a case, we need to let the situation open as long as possible to let the child reach the point where ce knows what ces preference is. Such delays are not a waste of time because the child experiences true respect from adults and as a consequence the positive progress develops all the better.

One child, one pace :

A given child may be in need of a low level of activities as ces starting point.
This also must be allowed at any time later if a child slows down as we never know exactly what is the current course active inside of each child.

"The task of trauma mastery is extremely demanding and requires considerable psychological effort from the child. Therefore any factor that reduces the child's capacity to focus on this all-important task may lead to maladaptive resolution" (M. Lystad).
We will then give priority to therapy over school activities, assuming that when the child will have gained a sufficiently better mental health ce will make up for the delay in ces academic level.

But the child ceself can be resistant to re-experience the negative emotions attached to the traumas as they caused deep hurt to ce, so we must be patient and not try to speed up the process as that would be counter-productive. Only the child knows at what rhythm ce can progress and what is bearable day after day, and some regressions may occur.

Recovery of a child can be a lengthy process  and can't be shortened because "emotional development, like physical and mental developments, proceeds in an orderly way, with each new step building on the previous ones". We therefore must strive to offer "relationships that allow the rebuilding of the emotional development step by step" (L. Katz).

If after a reasonable time spent in the therapeutic milieu a child has not progressed, we need to recognize that we are inefficient with this little person
and need to reconsider all that have been attempted so far and if a change of
place would be better beneficial to the child. We need ask ce the relevant questions and share the feeling that we are failing to help ce cure.

rev. 2013

 

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