How Do You Work With Children And Families?
My approach to families/caregivers who struggle with their children is based on attachment focused therapy models and it is mainly influenced by trauma-informed interventions. In other words, during the treatment, I provide purposeful healing to children exposed to trauma. Rather than punitive and restrictive interventions, I focus on healing by establishing a stronger connection/attachment between children and caregivers. In my practice, I recognize the essential importance of childhood experience in shaping the health of the child. I work closely with parents to help them recognize how they can be the main agents of change for their children.
My approach to treatment is based on the works of: Daniel Siegel, Bruce Perry, Bryan Post, Terry Levy, Michael Orlans, Heather Forbes, Daniel Hughes, Karyn Purvis, and more.
What Is Trauma And How Do I Know That Traumatic Experience Has Impacted My Child?
Trauma refers to any experience that leaves us feeling overwhelmed, helpless, vulnerable, and frightened. Various events may be called “traumatic.” For example, physical or sexual abuse can be very traumatic, as well as being in accidents or experiencing natural disasters. Importantly, trauma is often about more than just physical harm. In fact, trauma can be about separation from a caregiver, emotional neglect, or living in a stressful and chaotic home. Interestingly enough, since all children are different, some traumatized children can handle many situations just fine; however, small and fairly insignificant events might cause them a lot of distress and when that happens, they emotionally unravel within seconds.
Children who went through a traumatic experience may have different responses to what happened. They may:
- Have difficulty calming down their emotions (aggression towards others; self-harming behaviors; or isolating oneself)
- Struggle forming a positive sense of themselves
- Experience difficulties in forming relationships with others
- Regress and have odd eating behaviors (hoarding or hiding food)
- Act out sexually and struggle with appropriate boundaries
They may also expect that bad things will happen to them even if they are physically safe. It is fairly safe to say, that if your child went through some adverse experiences in the past, AND he/she experiences any of the difficulties mentioned above, whatever happened did and still is impacting his/her life.
Why Is It So Hard To Get Along With My Child?
Throughout my years of experience with children, I understand that it is extremely difficult to develop a satisfying and loving relationship with a child who seems not to want to have a relationship with you. Trauma directly impacts attachment or the connection that the child has with the caregiver. Since trauma usually happens within the context of a relationship, children who went through trauma learned that relationships are not safe. Consequently, they may try to protect themselves from hurt and disappointment by pushing you away. They may act out, completely withdraw, or even self-destruct.
It has been shown, however, that we are all wired for connection, approval, and comfort from another person. Hence, as much as your child pushes you away, they still need you. My hope is that through our work together, I will help you “translate” cues from your child that tell us about his/her longings for connection with you. I will then teach you how to respond effectively to your child in these very moments when he/she is pushing you away, and yet, needs you the most.
What Do We Focus On In Our Sessions?
In my family sessions, I teach you how your child’s past, often-adverse, experiences affect his/her emotional and behavioral state now. Click here to hear experts in the field talking about child’s brain development and neurobiology and how crucial it is to address it during the treatment. We also explore in detail your child’s (and yours) triggers that push him/her and you over the edge. We will equip you with interventions that foster healthy attachment and connection for your child and your family.
Why Do We Meet Without Our Child?
This is a common question. We are our own worse critics. This is also true for children—even if, on the outside, children may seem like they don’t care. Children with past traumatic experiences learned to believe that they are to blame for what happened to them. While bringing them to therapy can be very useful and, at times, required, it can sometimes confirm children’s beliefs that, indeed, there is something wrong with them. Let’s try working without your child, and if we don’t make enough progress, we will definitely involve him/her in treatment. Contact me to talk more about my approach and learn whether it may be a fit for you and your child?
Why Do You Want To Come To Our Home?
If possible, and depending on your case, our second session takes place at your home. We meet for 90 minutes. During that time, I meet with all family members who live in your home, including your child. I find that meeting your child in his/her natural environment gives me more information about him/her. I also get a deeper, and quicker understanding of your family dynamics. As I make more accurate assessments about your child and his/her environment, I can then help you both better. Feel free to contact me with any questions about how a home visit can benefit your treatment.
Do You Ever Involve Our Child in Therapy?
Yes. If the interventions that I suggest for you to implement at home with your child do not bring the desired changes to your family functioning, we will include your child in therapy sessions. Please remember that parents MUST be present for these sessions.
Before bringing your child to therapy, we make sure that you as a parent understand how your child’s past trauma has affected him/her emotionally and neurologically. Finally, we make sure that you are working on managing your own stress level while interacting with your child.
If Our Child Is Not Participating In Treatment, How Can You Help Him/Her?
You, your child, and all other family members at your home create a family system. Therefore, everyone is impacting each other—often in powerful ways. During our sessions we will talk about how your child impacts you. We will explore the types of situations you and your child struggle with, and we will come up with effective ways of handling these situations. We will talk about techniques and tools that may work better for your child, whose regulatory and attachment system has been compromised. While you and I are learning how to approach your child differently, your child starts noticing the difference in you, and he/she starts changing too!
Do You Help Us Work With Our Child’s School?
Yes. I make sure to coordinate my treatment with other professionals involved in your case (including psychiatrists and family doctors). If your child experiences trouble at school, it is imperative for me to talk to the teachers. If you would like to hear some of the “success stories” regarding my collaborative work with schools, give me a call or email me. My goal is to advocate for your child and “get everyone on the same page.”
What Do I Do Next?
Contact me via phone or via email. We’ll talk about your presenting problem, our schedule availabilities and the fee. I will answer any questions that you have about starting counseling. We will also decide if we are the right fit for each other. If I’m not the best therapist for you, I’m happy to help you find one who is. This is your therapy, and you want to find a therapist who “clicks” with you.
If we decide to proceed, we will then meet for our first session without your child. During that session we will develop treatment goals, discuss relevant history, and previous treatments.
Is There Hope?
Yes! Louis Cozolino stated “the brain is capable of change at any time and social interactions are a primary source of brain regulation, growth, and health.” What Louis really says is that your child can heal through the relationship with you. I want to help you learn how to do that. If you are ready to learn, please call me for your free, 30 minutes phone consultation.