Engaging with children who have experienced trauma.

Children who have experienced trauma need help to build a collection of successes, rather than a list of failures.

Trauma by definition, is unbearable and intolerable. Feelings of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control and threat of death characterize it. Trauma can overwhelm a person mentally, emotionally and physically.

However, trauma is not limited to surviving life-threatening experiences. For a young child, trauma may be experienced in the form of separation from parents, looking into the eyes of a depressed mother, or being in a household with a high level of marital tension. For an adolescent, chronic stress and trauma may come from the incessant teasing of peers or taking care of the needs of an alcoholic parent. For an adult, chronic loneliness, the loss of a pet, or a constant sense of shame or failure may have the same impact.

If we are lucky, we have had good healthy, loving, and nurturing carers when we were infants. These good carers would have been consistently available to us and helped us to lay the foundation for the optimal development of our brain and nervous system. They would also have helped us to develop a healthy view of ourselves, how to relate to other people, and how to cope with the world. Unfortunately, many maltreated, abused and/or traumatised children have not experienced such secure attachment to their parents. 

While we all want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is controlled by trauma and helps us to survive, is not good in denial. A Child’s brain who underwent trauma is always looking for danger. When children act out their pain, rather than suppressing it, they are often diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attachment Disorder, or Conduct Disorder. However, it is important to remember that these labels are just parts of the whole person’s self-protective mechanism. Nevertheless, we cannot change the behavior without treating the underlying issues – the trauma.

To help children develop good attachment and to reconnect, carers/parents need to be in tune with the child or the young person. According to Dan Hughes, a clinical psychologist, being playful, accepting and empathic are the keys to reconnecting and becoming “in tune” with the child or the young person. Home should be the place where children and parents can relax, feel safe, laugh and cry, hope and dream. When home is functioning well, it has the characteristics of PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy).

When we engage respectfully and genuinely in this way, we aim to increase the emotional bond between the child and the carer and provide alternatives to the child’s previous experiences.

 

We use PACE to:

help the child feel connected.

help you and the child feel understood.

build trust between you.

build security between you.

 

An open, warm attitude of unconditional love and joy is the basis on which an infant’s positive development will flourish. As children grow up, however, this attitude seems to decrease, but if we continue to keep the PACE attitude throughout childhood it will enhance the child parent relationship.

 

 

 

Reading List

Bessel. V. D. K (2014). The body keeps the scores. Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. UK:  Penguin books.

Hughes D. A (2009)  Attachment Focused Parenting. Effective Strategies to Care for children. New York, London: W.W.Norton & Company.

Disabled And a New Parent? Some Tips on Making It Work

I was recently contacted by someone to  publish their writing on my website. I decided to go ahead an help out this stranger as I am passionate about equality, people with disabilities and mental health.

So here it is, an article by Ashley Taylor. I hope you will find it helpful!

Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

Planning for a new baby is exciting, but also a little scary. And, if you have a disability, it may be even scarier. With careful planning, however, you will make a wonderful parent. Read on for some resources as well as tips on how to modify your home for your safety and that of your baby.

Resources

There are many resources that offer information, support, and the experiences of others. Here’s a quick list of some of the most useful websites:

  • com is an inspirational site that explains how parents with serious disabilities manage seemingly difficult tasks. One video, for instance, shows a paraplegic mother taking her baby to the car and strapping him into the car seat.
  • The good people at com have put together the top financial resources available to people with disabilities.
  • The Americans with Disabilities organization has put together a thorough document on the rights of disabled parents and what constitutes discrimination.

Home modifications

 There are home modifications you can make that will make it safer for you and for your baby. You will need to feed, bathe, and move your baby from one room to another, so it is vital that you’re able to move around the house unimpeded. Be sure to move furniture and clutter out of your home’s passageways. If you are in danger of falling, make sure your floors are skid-proof. This might involve laying textured vinyl tile or non-skid carpets.

Throw rugs or area rugs that are a tripping hazard should be thrown out or refurbished by applying lines of acrylic calk the length of the rug. When it’s dry, this is an effective way to turn a rug into a non-slip one. You can do the same thing with a bathmat.

Alternatively, you can paint the underside of the rug with a substance called “Fiber-Lok Non-Skid Rug Backing,” which is somewhat like rubber cement. If you can’t find it in local stores, you will be able to find it online. Also make sure you don’t have any stray staples or nails popping out of your floor.

Many parents have found that the easiest way to bathe a baby is to take him into the bathtub or shower with them. Put a bouncer in the bathtub for your baby or another device that keeps the baby’s head elevated. Depending on your disability, you may also benefit from installing grab bars in the shower and bathtub area.

The good people at BabyCenter.com say you can take a baby in the shower as soon as she’s shed her umbilical cord. They recommend introducing your baby to the shower experience slowly and carefully. Make sure your baby’s eyes don’t get the full blast of the water.

Feeding your baby

 Make sure you have a station for feeding your baby that is the right height and does not put undue stress on your back or arms. Some parents have found that cutting a table to fit around the mother or father and to fit around the baby chair makes the feeding process much easier.

If you have difficulty seeing, you will want to have someone label baby food containers with textured tape or braille labels so that you can tell the apples from the pears.

In conclusion, raising a baby is a challenge for anyone, and a disabled mother or father is no exception. But if you know what resources are available, the job will be a lot easier. Think about your needs and those of your new baby, and make accommodations accordingly.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Workshop- Art and Expression

Thank you to all the children who stopped by on Saturday at my art therapy table at the Pottery Barn store in Chadstone Shopping Centre. The workshop provided opportunity for children and adults to explore their creative side. I was surprised to see how many parents were willing to leave their children with two friendly strangers – me, and my delightful daughter. Some parents stayed and watched and that was good too.

In our modern day, where we hear so many stories about lack of trust in the world, I wondered what it was about the art that made everyone feel relaxed and that they could trust the people and the environment. I’m sure a table covered in paints and pastels and pencils and coloured material is very welcoming, and that was certainly our intention.


Children naturally gravitate towards art. It is a simple way for them to connect with themselves and the world around them, which can so often be overwhelming and confusing. We saw how kids who presented in a shy way when they started, opened up with each progressive brush stroke on the paper. The art was like a conversation starter. It helped the children to examine their world and they were able to talk about what they were doing. One girl discovered watercolours for the first time while she created an imaginative story. She left the art therapy table very happy with the new story she had created.

I feel very grateful as an art therapist to be able to witness these emerging expressions of their inner worlds and to just ‘be there’ accompanying children in their journeys.

״Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when you grow up!״ Picasso.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt.

At times, such as life transitions, when children are leaving the nest, changing career in your 50’s, looking for a new job or perhaps a breakdown of a relationship, staying positive and not comparing yourself to others can be very difficult.

How does one overcome the natural human reaction of comparing yourself to your friend, your sibling, or your colleague? Staying focused, meditation and practicing mindfulness can help you connect to your inner self and help you find the strength you need in a difficult time.

But sometimes we need help doing this. Discussing your situation with a counsellor can help you find your inner strength, resilience and self esteem. When art therapy is also used in the counselling process it helps people to tap into their own creative resources and find their uniqueness. Sometimes we loose sight of that. It reminds us that we are worthy no matter how successful we appear to be, how smart our kids are or how big our house is.

If you can relate to some of these issues, please call me to discuss how I can help you paddle your boat through your life changing currents.

Dalit bar
M: 0412 396 644

Do you feel that you are living with a teen-alien?

teen crop

5 clues for better communication with your teenager:

Communicating with your teenager can sometimes be very challenging! How can you avoid that common situation when a simple misunderstanding or question, quickly descends into yelling and chaos? Despite their body language, their apparent disinterest and occasional damn rudeness, all teens need to feel love, approval and acceptance from you.

Even though your teen may seem to be withdrawn from you emotionally, or appears to be striving for independence, he or she still needs your attention and an indication that you are trying to “understand”. Sometimes, as adults, we fail to understand the impact of our moods, problems or activities on the children sharing our lives and our homes. Our children, especially our teens, are often more tuned in to our own issues than perhaps we give them credit for. Therefore, it is important to remember that teens can find changes in the home environment very unsettling. Stressful or even exciting developments such as moving house, moving to a new neighbourhood, a new school or a new relationship in their parents life, can be very confronting or confusing. “What about me?, “What about what I want?”, “Why wasn’t I asked?” may have a familiar ring to you.

Our teens may appear to be tough and very self confident, but deep down they may be worried and anxious about their lives and their futures. Change, which we, as adults, often welcome, plan for and discuss amongst ourselves, is sometimes missing from our engagement with our not-quite-adult children.

If this sounds like your home, I would encourage you to try a different approach. Sometimes it is more important to listen to your teenager than to talk at them. Let them speak. Wait your turn. Listen between the lines. What is my child really telling me? Once you have demonstrated your willingness and ability to listen, it is not unreasonable to expect the same in return. Be prepared to admit that you may have been mistaken about something. Acknowledge that there might be another way of viewing a situation. Share your feelings and your opinions but try to do so in a non-judgmental way. Try not to use words like “right” or “wrong” – it might just be a different perspective on the same issue. Most importantly, be conscious that you don’t want the outcome of a conversation to be that your teen will become defensive and angry. The primary goal of any such discussion is that the doors of communication remain open and that both you and your teen feel that you have actually listened to each other.

To ease the stress you and your teen could be feeling, you might be mindful of the following things. These simple “tools” can help reduce the sense of chaos at home and might help improve the quality of communication during a challenging period in the life of the family unit.

What you might do:

  1. Be genuine. Teenagers will usually respond to clear, honest conversation. You need to set the right example. Being genuine means that you are aware of your own stress levels or the things that have changed in your physical/social/emotional environment. If you are angry or upset this is probably not the right time to try to build a bridge with your teen.
  1. Avoid lecturing. Lecturing can often cause the teen to feel as if you are patronising them. Adolescents who are upset or in crisis will not absorb lessons delivered in a preaching style. They simply won’t be listening if the tone of voice or the body language is threatening. It’s important that you listen without judging, mocking, interrupting, criticizing or offering advice. Let them have their say. As explained above, set the ground rules early: in return for letting your teen unburden themselves, you expect the opportunity to respond…..once you’ve had time to think about and absorb the message. Be mindful, not judgemental. Be compassionate, not angry.
  1. Find compassion for your self and through that you will find it helps to improve your relationship with your teenager. Self-compassion shows that you respect yourself and shows that you are a worthy person. Take care of yourself, engage in a creative or a mindfulness activity, a hobby, a quite walk or seeing a friend. All of these are examples of activities that will be beneficial to your well-being. With a heightened sense of inner peace you can be a better communicator.
  1. Be available. Be there for your teen. It’s important to show your teen that you are available; not necessarily wherever or whenever, but make a date, set aside a time, and be there! It might mean making a time to chat over coffee or to share a pizza. And don’t be dismayed if the first response is a sarcastic put-down or dismissive gesture. Eventually, if you repeat your offer, it will be accepted.
  1. Create structure. Some teens crave consistency. While their world is changing, you can provide a sense of stability or predictability in small ways: have regular mealtimes or days when you go supermarket shopping together, for example. Routine helps to maintain a sense of equilibrium for your teen.

Would you like to discuss these issues?

Do you need help with some of my suggestions?I would love to hear from you and meet so that I can share my professional insights and experience.

M: 0412 396 644 or dalit@mindsightcounselling.com.au

Dalit Bar

Wheel of emotions in art therapy

Robert Plutchik (1927 –2006) was a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, professor at the University of South Florida and he was also a psychologist. Robert Plutchik stated that there are eight basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. He created the wheel of emotions, which illustrates the various relationships among the emotions.

Adapted to an art therapy theme, the wheel is divided into 8 sections; the client thinks about different emotions that came up for them during the day. Additionally the client writes the emotions above each section (on the outside). Clients are then asked to fill in each pie with a corresponding color or picture that matches his/her idea of what the emotion means to him/her. When the clients are finished colouring or painting, they may explain if they feel comfortable enough within the group, what made them choose a particular colour, or explain what the picture means.

This exercise helps the client to explore and release feelings by drawing and writing them out. It helps to gain insight into what is really going on in the current moment. Additionally, it helps to put the present emotions into perspective by seeing it in the context of equal parts of the full circle. In the art therapy group I facilitate, I used this “ice breaker” exercise and found it to be exploratory and participants were able to express more clearly their emotions.

8 Emotions Wheel

References:
http: // www.americanscientist.org/article/01articles/plutchik.html

The benefits of keeping a journal

Brain

Brain Balance

Ever since I remember myself as a ten years old I kept a journal. I remember how excited I got to receive a new pen from my parents for my eleventh birthday. Immediately, I decided I would only use it to write in my journal. Many years have passed since then, and I am less precious about my journals. My current journal has no “rules”. I write, scribble, draw, and stick images. In short, anything that comes to my mind I will make a note of.

Journaling can be a creative tool for people to understand themselves better and reflect on what is going on in their lives. Daniel Siegel, a professor of clinical psychology has done intensive research about the brain, states that journaling can be useful for all people: the ones who struggle to access their emotions, and for those who have trouble to balance their overactive feelings (Siegel, D., 2009). Siegel explains that the right side of the brain is responsible for all our visual sensations, emotions and social selves, where as the left side of our brain controls our linguistic, conceptual, and fact based analytical communication.

Research has shown that by naming emotions or feelings that one experiences, a soothing effect may occur in the brain. This is where journaling can help. We can use the left side of the brain to calm the right side by expressing our feelings in a journal.

Furthermore, Dr. James Pennebaker, a pioneering professor in the study of using expressive writing as a healing process, emphasizes that writing about troubling experiences may help to make those experiences more manageable. Pennebaker says, “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experienced improved health.”

Writing about an image or event can transform experiences into words, and provide an important healing function. Writing in a journal may actually begin the process of disconnecting from disturbing thoughts and upsetting feelings into a written chronological timeline of sensory memories.

The journal can be your safe place to explore feelings and thoughts, help you understand yourself better and therefore can lead to better relationships with others. You can also try different methods of expression in your journal, such as drawing, doodles, collage and scribbles. You don’t have to believe you are creative in order to benefit from a creative journal. The point is to explore oneself, not to create a masterpiece!

So let your self go by picking up a pen or pencil and see where it takes you!

 

References

Siegel, D. (2009). Change your brain and your life. Scribe publications, Melbourne, Australia.

The university of Texas at Austin. James W. Pennebaker. ( 2005) Writing to heal. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from https://www.utexas.edu/features.

Giving Advice

Hello everyone!

The vulnerability of giving advice

AdviceHow easy it is for us to get into the trap of giving advice in relationships when it is actually not wanted?

In my work with groups, I see people that finally open up after years of bottled up emotions inside. They share with the group what is going on for them; however, they don’t feel they need to receive advice. It’s actually just the opposite; they just want to be heard.

Consequently, other people in the group may become defensive, as their advice is not accepted with the appreciation they think they deserve! And a whole lot of new issues and complications arise…

It is in our nature as humans to offer advice and opinion on what someone should or shouldn’t do. This is just a human instinct to say to someone who seemed to be troubled what he or she should do about it! However, we need to remind ourselves that sharing emotions and experiences is sometimes all that person really needs. To be heard and listened to in a non-judgmental manner is the heart of the art of true listening.

We are the experts of our own lives only!

In the art therapy workshops, the making of the art brings to the surface emotions and feelings that are sometimes hard to manage but it helps to explore the meanings in people’s lives as they come forth in an artistic process. As an art therapist I have to remind myself not to interpret the clients work but to accompany them in their journey and help them find their own meanings in the process.

Just like giving advice… walk along the person and support them by really listening with an open mind. So next time, a friend, a partner or a colleague share with you concerns and feelings, don’t worry about telling them what they need to do, just remind yourself that empathic listening, open-mind and non judgmental are qualities that can go long way.

Mindfully yours

Dalit Bar

Growing up without a father

without a father

Growing up without a father


This week I found myself talking with some of my clients about growing up with inadequate parents. It astounded me to hear how many individuals have been disappointed by their parents. Feelings of rejection and words such as unloved had frequent mentions in the discussions.

On Saturday morning I embraced my fifteen minutes of solitude before the morning rush of sport activities and driving commitments began. This brief peaceful morning period was just enough time to read an article in the newspaper about screen icon Sophia Lauren, and her childhood memories. In the article, she is being asked; “at what point did she decide that her father was a useless human being?” She responds by explaining: “When you are 5, 6, 7, you follow what your mother tells you because you want to make peace. You want the normality, which we didn’t have. My father always would come to see me when my mother sent him a telegraph saying, ‘Sophia is very sick. Come’. It didn’t matter why he came. What I always wanted, because all my friends had one, was a father. I wanted to be like them, to be normal…but this was impossible. So you see these things when you’re 13, 14, when you’ve almost grown up. You see it for what it is.

This is very true, we do see our parents for who they are, but even after countless years of maturing and accepting, we still carry the pain and the rejection. Even though we decided we don’t care, the pain is still there. It lives inside the unfulfilled expectation of a parent who failed us. This pain is analogous to the pain we feel when we grieve for someone. Here we grieve for our unmet expectations, and the disappointments that are characterized by rejection, absence, abandonment, and a multitude of unanswered questions as to why. Why this parent chose a pathway that didn’t fit into Sophia Lauren’s childhood conception of ‘normal’.

However, every individual’s experience differs in how and why they categorized a parent as inadequate. Therefore one client’s journey to separate this pain from their daily life will take a different pathway to the next. Taking part in art therapy helps clients to pay attention to themselves and their lives, tapping into their own wisdom rather than looking for answers from the outside world. In art therapy the client attempts to put the past behind him or her and have the option to imagine their life as they would like it to be in the present moment. The process of art connects a person to their feelings, and the expression comes from a deeper level than the mind.

 So trust yourself, create and practice mindfulness!

Useful links:

http://growingupwithoutafather.org

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/06/17/6-lessons-i-learned-about-being-a-man-from-growing-up-fatherless/

Mindfully Yours

Dalit Bar

The purpose and benefits of the Art Therapy Group

art-therapy-brushsHello everyone!

A few words about the purpose and benefits of the Art Therapy Group:

 Purpose of Art Therapy Group:

Art therapy supports our process when words are not enough. I facilitate Art Therapy workshops where the participants have the opportunity to engage with their feelings and emotions associated with depression and anxiety, as well as raising their self-esteem and wellbeing.

The benefits of the Art Therapy Group:

Clients are exposed to other individuals that may share similar issues and concerns. The group environment acts as a time to share these issues and to feel connected rather than isolated. By using various art materials and theme exercises weekly, it helps raise awareness and therefore allows people to make new choices in their lives.

We spend most of our days living and operating with our “heads”. Joining an Art Therapy counseling group gives you a chance to connect to your feelings and create art from your heart. It is a special time for you, where you can look after yourself and can explore personal issues in a safe place. The more aligned you are with yourself, the easier it is for you to be creative and to manifest your heart desires. To find deeper meaning in life, we need to be aware of negative beliefs and replace them with positive supportive ones. An Art Therapy counseling group can offer this replacement of positive support and aid in the journey of meaningful life pursuits.

Mindfully yours

Dalit Bar