What is the role of the therapist in treating traumatized children?

Monica offered an alternative view on the role of the therapist as a guide through past trauma in children. “You can’t work with children like you work with adults,” she said. “They will talk when they are ready and will get angry or withdraw if you try to probe. Besides, by probing, you’re making a dangerous assumption that you know what’s wrong. You’re putting the idea in the child’s head rather than letting what happened play out. The same goes for reenactment. They will reenact when they are ready to process what’s happened. All you can be is a careful observer. You look for the patterns in their art reactions and try to decipher meaning.”

What if you teach a child more constructive behaviors to help them break the cycle of poor behavior leads to being ostracized which leads to more poor behavior? “That’s more of a cognitive behavioral approach. The problem is you miss the cause. How are you going to teach a kid to behave through carrots and sticks when they still feel completely empty inside? Taking away their dessert doesn’t hurt compared to what they’ve been through. What they need is consistency and stability. Give them that and they will eventually open up.”

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