Child/Family Services

Child & Adolescent Therapy

Children and adolescents are referred for therapy for a variety of reasons: anger, aggression, fears, phobias, depression, ADHD, learning issues, perfectionism, developmental delays, impulsivity, social concerns, attachment challenges, excessive worrying, over-reactive emotional responses, adjustment issues, anxiety, and/or other problematic behaviors. Therapy and/or changing how the child is parented usually decreases these symptoms significantly.

Life circumstances that may challenge the parent/child relationship include prolonged adult or child illness, multiple family moves/caregivers, high stress in the family or community, death or divorce of parents, history of adoption/foster care, premature birth, child abuse, or neglect, developmental delays, parent drug or alcohol abuse, parents who have difficulty controlling their anger or anxieties, and/or child with a strong-willed temperament.

As a child and family therapist, Kathryn believes that parents play a vital role in addressing their child's underlying anxiety. Almost all of her work with children includes the parents, with separate parent coaching sessions scheduled as needed.

Services provided include:

  • Child therapy with the parent present
  • Family play therapy utilizing Theraplay® principles
  • Individual therapy for parents
  • Parent Coaching
  • Individual and/or family therapy for adolescents
  • Parent consultation groups/parent training

Kathryn believes that healing comes from exploring our relationships with others and within ourselves through the mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, she has sought training in the experiential psychotherapy modalities of Theraplay www.theraplay.org and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org. She is a Certified Theraplay Therapist, Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Parent Educator, a Registered Circle of Security Parenting Facilitator, and a Certified Beyond Consequences Instructor. Her parent coaching utilizes concepts from Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) http://child.tcu.edu/about-us/tbri), Circle of Security Parenting http://circleofsecurity.net, and Beyond Consequences www.beyondconsequences.com. Each provides ways to explore how our attachment systems can help us regulate our emotions and heal from past trauma.

Theraplay

Much of Kathryn’s work with younger children and their families is based on a short-term, intensive, structured type of family therapy called Theraplay® www.theraplay.org Theraplay is a treatment approach that focuses on enhancing attachment between parent and child, and in that process helps the child develop a sense of belonging, trust in others, self-awareness and self-esteem.

Attachment-based play therapy such as Theraplay uses playful, attuned responsiveness of caregivers to facilitate a more secure attachment. Because the roots of the development of the self, of self-esteem, and of trust lie in the early years, Theraplay uses engaging play activities to return to earlier stages of development and “re-do” some of those experiences. These activities help restart the healthy cycle of interaction, leading the child to the capacity for emotional regulation, the capacity to understand and empathize with others, and feelings of self-worth.

Many of the activities used in Theraplay are typical “baby games.” Theraplay divides these playful activities into four categories. In general, children who are more aggressive and controlling need to experience more nurturing and structuring play. Children who tend to be withdrawn need more engaging and challenging play. However, all children benefit from play in all four categories.

Nurturing Play

  • Singing and rocking
  • Positive, soft eye contact
  • Smiling, gazing into their eyes
  • Butterfly kisses
  • Dancing on parents' feet
  • Back rubs or massage
  • Manicure
  • Applying lotion to hands, arms and feet

Structuring Play

  • "Mother may I"
  • Copy me or be my mirror
  • Stack of hands
  • Follow the leader train
  • "Red light, Green light"
  • Ring-around-the-rosy
  • Patty-cake

Engaging Play

  • "I'm gonna get you" chase
  • Beep the child's nose
  • Hand clapping games
  • Piggy-back rides
  • Swinging in the air or in a circle
  • "This is the way the baby rides"
  • Pop cheeks

Challenging Play

  • Straight face challenge
  • Crawling race
  • Balloon bop
  • Tug-of-war
  • Thumb wrestling
  • Pick something up with toes

It is important to remember that attachment is a reciprocal dance between the parent and the child. Both have certain behaviors and roles that make the attachment process work smoothly.

Our hope is to provide for the child’s needs in all areas (physically, socially, emotionally). Theraplay helps parents know how to respond to the child’s resistance to receiving the care they need. The goal is to help the child experience the “felt safety” that is the foundation of a secure attachment.

Due to the interactive nature of Theraplay, it can be particularly helpful during the pandemic. Even though Kathryn is providing services via online therapy, the parent and child interacting in their own home has particular benefits. During the therapy sessions, Kathryn is a very active presence in structuring and guiding the parent and child through activities.

Additionally, individual parent sessions help keep the parent informed about the purpose of the activities and how to adjust them for optimum benefit.

Through this process, the parent learns how to become a more therapeutic presence for their child, and the child experiences their parent as a better source of comfort and care, as well as enjoyment and fun!

The Theraplay Institute www.theraplay.org has an excellent video that will give you a clear idea about this type of therapy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5IoEDHY-Y4

Is Theraplay an "evidenced based practice?" It has been evaluated and rated a “promising practice” by the California Evidence Based Practice Clearinghouse for Child Welfare: https://www.cebc4cw.org/program/theraplay/

Kathryn has been providing family therapy based on Theraplay principles since 2005. She became a Certified Theraplay Therapist in April 2013.

Online Therapy Considerations for children

Online therapy is suitable for many children. The goal is to provide assistance during this unprecedented time in a way that keeps everyone safe.

If you would like to consider play therapy via online sessions, of course, it will look different and feel different than what would be provided in an office setting, though it still may be very helpful. Given the current crisis and heightened anxieties, along with drastic changes of routine for children and families, play sessions can be very important for both children and parents in maintaining connection and support.

There are various approaches Kathryn can use with parents and children, including directive and interactive activities that will both strengthen the parent/child relationship and calm the nervous system (utilizing Theraplay principles). Parent coaching regarding how to structure your time at home with your child might also be beneficial for many families, especially if your child has not been easy to parent.

How we talk with children about challenging situations matters. Here are some stories that might help ease the anxiety children have around COVID-19:
https://www.sparklestories.com/blog/post/stories-to-settle-fear-of-the-coronavirus/?fbclid=IwAR1FFOHVQaisseta7zmQxk0_ZluOJyn9uEswPXvsO-lZQQ-FTLuDPNOx42c

In addition to parents and children, it is important to consider the impact of the pandemic on our teenagers and young adults. They also need time to adjust to this new way of living. Older children often benefit from having someone to talk to as they process the disappointment and anger that all of the restrictions bring.

And parents may benefit from some ideas in how to help provide an empathetic environment for their adolescents. Disaster mental health research clearly shows that if we can strengthen the family, we help all members within it, whether you are a parent, child, or adolescent.