Family and Child Therapy
As an attachment therapist, I am interested first and foremost by how a client is able to navigate their relationships. In attachment work, the relationship is the patient. The goal is to increase trust and security in the intimate relationship between parent and child. When secure attachment is the treatment goal, the involvement of parents is essential to a successful outcome, therefore parents are expected to attend each session. I typically meet with parents first for an update of the child’s behavioral and emotional episodes throughout the week and work with parents to develop their skills in responding therapeutically to problems. For the majority of the session, the child joins parents in the room. Sometimes I work individually with a child or individually with a parent, but more often, I work with the child while parents are present in session as supportive witnesses.
Sessions are an opportunity for the child to practice identifying and expressing feelings, and gain an increased ability to tolerate vulnerable feelings. This practice aims to resolve or make manageable the child’s feelings of loss, inadequacy, anxiety, fear, and shame. During sessions, I treat the child with unconditional positive regard and give frequent praise and validation to bolster self-esteem. I assist the child in understanding the underlying feelings that drive behavior, and from this they can derive coping skills for vulnerable feelings. Parents' involvement in this process helps them to empathize with the child’s experience of shame and anxiety, and this therapeutic response encourages healing.
Any number of interventions may be used in a family or child session, it depends on the goal of the session as well as the preferences of the client. I often use play therapy techniques, most commonly processing sandtray creations. I typically interweave components of narrative therapy into sessions over time, as it is essential for clients with early trauma to develop a positive and sequential self-story. When appropriate, I often use an intervention called EMDR to address traumatic memories stored in both implicit and explicit memory systems. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, and is an evidence-based intervention that can be effective for individuals with anxiety, stress, or past traumatic experiences. I was trained in EMDR in 2010, and have pursued several Masters courses in EMDR focusing on accessing pre-verbal memory, integrating ego states, and reducing dissociative tendencies. I regularly use EMDR with adults and children, and have found that combining the standard EMDR protocol with sandtray or other forms of expressive therapy is particularly effective for my clients. If you'd like to learn more about EMDR, please click here.