Therapeutic Approach

At Chrysalis we know that experiencing trauma, neglect and disrupted attachments very early in life can have a profound impact on children’s later development and emotional wellbeing. The world which a child experiences as a baby and a toddler, and the messages they are given by the grownups caring for them at this time work to create a template for their later expectations of themselves and others. Where a child has been given early messages that “I am bad” and that “grownups can’t be trusted”, they will tend to take these expectations with them, even after they are moved from an abusive, neglectful environment into a loving and supportive one. These negative inner messages underlie the many emotional and behavioural symptoms which such children can present with.

Our therapeutic approaches all focus on working with parents and children together to gradually help traumatised children learn to love, trust, believe in themselves and be able to relax and enjoy life in their new family. Through structured play and therapeutic conversations we help children to gradually create new inner messages where they see themselves as lovable, competent, and “good”, and adults as caring and trustworthy.

We see parents and carers as the primary people who can help their child to heal, and much of our work is dedicated to sharing our therapeutic skills with adults supporting the child so that the therapeutic approach can be used at home, not just in the therapy sessions. Parenting a traumatised child who is distrustful, rejecting of love and care, and reluctant to allow adults to be in charge can be an exhausting, overwhelming and bewildering experience for parents and carers who, without support and understanding, can be at risk of becoming traumatised themselves.

Each week parents and carers have time alone with the therapist prior to the session with the child. This time can be used flexibly for coaching parents in therapeutic skills, reviewing video footage of previous sessions, understanding the meaning of particular problematic behaviours, problem-solving how to manage particular issues at home, and exploring how parents can look after their own emotional wellbeing. Parents and carers then, guided by the therapist, play an active role in the child’s therapy session, comforting the child as they explore difficult emotions and memories, and sharing moments of joy, fun and success.

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