Opinions on ISPCC HEADBomz video from Child Mental Health Experts

Opinions on ISPCC HEADBomz video from Child Mental Health Experts

Many people have asked over the last 3 weeks, how did the HEADBomz video get approved? Were any Child Mental Health Professionals involved? Who were they? How could they? What on earth are the ISPCC thinking?
The official information from the ISPCC – states that they did research to ascertain that children’s mental health is an issue that needs addressing. After they made the video with Aardman Animations, funded by Vodafone Foundation Ireland, they said,

 we tested these campaign ideas with four experts – two school principals, one urban and one rural – and two child psychologists – a clinical psychologist in Limerick and an educational psychologist in Dublin.
The feedback from this research was that a campaign like Headbomz would promote a culture around the importance of resilience within our children and that it was important that we speak to children of this age in a way that they would find entertaining.

The ISPCC will not release the names of these professionals for obvious reasons.

So it is interesting that the opinions of every single Mental Health Professional who has commented below, differ so greatly. Especially as these are all specialists in working with children. 

Most child mental health professionals who have seen the video take less than 2 minutes (the time it takes to watch the full version) to know what they think : while there may be some appeal in it for some robust children, this video is NOT OK for certain groups of children.

The comments below are just a few of those that have been shared online. They are taken from Twitter / article – HEADBOMZ – the Talking campaign that made me talk and need to say THIS / article –  DEAR HEADBomz ~ when will I stop seeing exploding heads?
I know there are many more in closed FaceBook groups. AS you can see – feeling among this group of professionals is strong!
With all this extra FREE feedback from child experts, it is nothing but puzzling to me why the ISPCC is still choosing to ignore these qualified, experienced, professional voices, and choosing to keep the advert live and being played extensively across TV, YouTube, Cinema as well encouraging it’s use in schools.
The HEADBomz video is causing distress and harm to certain children, and the professionals speaking out below are not OK with that.
Claire

Professional opinions on HEADBomz advert

As a Clinical Child Psychologist, it is distasteful, upsetting & degrading children’s very REAL issues Dr. Malie Coyne 🕊 (@MalieCoyne)

If even one child reports being disturbed by this, as a Clinical Child Psychologist that is enough evidence to STOP its’ use immediately. Dr. Malie Coyne 🕊 (@MalieCoyne)

An outrageously horrid song and video! I feel sickened and sad that this has been released by a reputable organisation such as ISPCC and really never want to see it again. Please ISPCC reconsider your position on using this material!
Dr Lynne Souter-Anderson, M.Ed, B.Ed, Doctor in Psychotherapy. MBACP (Senior Accredited). Director Bridging Creative Therapies Consultancy

I read your blogs with real interest. I have been unaware of this video’s release, and sadly for me it is another in a line of disparities between what is thought to be beneficial in raising awareness and support for mental health in children and young people, and what is actually useful….
As a professional and as a parent I would always support organisations seeking to raise awareness around the very real difficulties our young people are facing. However it does seem as if there has not been sufficient consideration of the impact on a particular population of children; those that the film ultimately seeks to help.
Certainly a blanket refusal to engage in open dialogue around even the way the video is circulated and presented is significant cause for concern.
‘Talking makes us stronger’ is an important message and whilst it is not the only one pertinent here, perhaps ISPCC Childline would benefit somewhat in following their own advice….and acknowledge that a positive response to talking also requires effective listening.
Dr Katy Farrell-Wright
Highly Specialised Clinical Psychologist.
(BsC, PGDip, DClinPsych)

I am curious to know why the ISPCC refuses to withdraw the video? Is it down to pride, cost, stubbornness or something else?
It also concerns me that the ISPCC aren’t interested. Does this just illustrate their lack of understanding of how some children struggle? Are they willing to open any form of dialogue over this issue or are they just not listening?
Surely they should be thinking of the CHILD first. And if their reasoning is that lots of type 1 children will benefit from it then can’t they compromise and remove this from universal viewing through TV, YouTube and cinema. Allowing the material just to go into a restricted environment, e.g. a school, where well informed Principals and school teams can decide how and if to show it would be less harmful. With the correct support and guidance for staff of course. Not ideal – but a step forward from their stance at the moment…
I am angry and disappointed that children, who are already struggling, will find life even more confusing or scary after watching this. And the ISPCC seem to be sitting back and allowing it to continue. It seems to contradict the title of their organisation!
Kate

I agree wholehearted with this article. The video is awful and I can’t image what idiots, with or without child therapy experience, approved it. I hope it was made by a marketing company, i get that, (words fail me if it was a therapist or assistant psychologist) but who signed this awful blunder off? Do the right think and remove it before it drives more children to experience anxiety.
Lorraine Debnam: Retired Psychotherapist, CAMHS

Working as a clinical psychologist, I applaud the idea of using child friendly ads to raise awareness of this area and encourage children to think and talk about ways to improve their mental health. However I find some of the content of this video disturbing and am very concerned that watching it may do more harm than good for particular groups of vulnerable children. I would encourage young people, parents and professionals who have concerns about this ad to raise them with the ISPCC.
Sally Ferris : ClinPsych, ASD Specialist

I lead a large primary school. Over the last few years I have taken action to ensure all of my staff team are trained in being aware of supporting our children who have experienced trauma. There are lots of them in every school.
I believe this video is inappropriate, ill thought out, potentially harmful and also demeaning to so many children that we are trying to protect, support and nurture on their journey towards health.
It may be a high quality video clip which, to some, seems light hearted and funny leading to perhaps a few children being encouraged to talk to someone. (Although I question the approach when the options for a child are for their head to explode in front of everyone or talk to someone instead. A fear-based motive for speaking out doesn’t seem to be a healthy approach for any child.)
However I feel the video diminishes the difficulties that so many children face when they have experienced trauma and feel unable to speak out about what they have been, or are still going through.
I would NEVER allow it to be used in my school as I can imagine how harmful it could be to certain children.
I am totally outraged, but also saddened and disappointed, that an organisation like the ISPCC is behind something which has the potential to cause harm to a child.
Ruth T

This video needs to be banned straight away. It is damaging and highly inappropriate.
Hannah Bridge MBAPT, MBACP

This is a dreadful video and I am concerned for all children who see it – especially children who struggle emotionally. I think it should be withdrawn.
Eileen Prendiville. E.C.P., S.I.A.H.I.P., S.I.A.P.T.P., R.N.M.H. Director Children’s Therapy Centre, Co. Westmeath.
 
We believe that  this is a topic that needs to be treated with great care and unfortunately we feel this has not happened.  We find that it could in fact be very damaging for certain children in that age group to watch.
 By showing it on TV, cinemas and YouTube, many younger children will also see it which can be frightening and defeat the total purpose of this (video) campaign. It conveys a ‘talk or else’ fear based message which we cannot support. We also wonder about the credentials and competencies  of the ‘child experts’ (who were consulted in the process) and who rated this campaign highly? 
In summary PTI  highly recommends that this campaign is withdrawn as soon as possible.
Monika Jephcott, President PTI. Play Therapy International.

Actually feeling sick after watching that. Shocking! I am a play therapist in Galway and work with a lot of children with anxiety. This clip feels quite threatening- if you don’t talk your head will explode! What an awful message to be giving children.
Linsey McNelis. Play Therapy Galway.

I am a play therapist and project worker in a marginalised community in Dublin. Both personally and professionally it is my opinion that this campaign is incredibly ill informed and insensitive. Aside from ‘talking about’ anxiety and mental health problems being difficult for adults never mind children, the actual content of this video is anxiety provoking and rather distressing to watch. It’s great to bring awareness to youth mental health but unfortunately this approach I feel will have the opposite effect on the target audience than what’s intended.
Jennie Fitzpatrick. Dip Play Therapy
 
 
Furious! Whoever decided that signing this off to roll out for professionals to use when they are working with children is insane and clearly doesn’t understand trauma and anxiety. They have neither experienced it themselves, nor do they have any real understanding of how to recognise it in the very individuals they are supposedly trying to help. This is a shocking and disgraceful clip that must not be shown to children struggling with anxiety issues, it is clearly sending out the wrong message which will set them back further, it’s too graphic and the language used is equally appalling. I hope the powers that be reflect on their choice after viewing everyone’s comments and withdraw the clip from circulation.
Michelle. Teaching Assistant

It is good that children’s mental health is being taken seriously now and there seems to be a growing understanding that stress and anxiety can have a big impact on children. It is a good thing that childline and ISPCC are supporting this campaign of raising awareness. However this video is not the way to do it. Children need to understand that anxiety feelings can be helped by expressing their thoughts, feelings and experiences through talking, creativity & play. To tell children their head will explode is not necessary and a lie. They may get the feeling their head is about to explode but this, as we know as adults, is different entirely. The video reinforces to an already anxious and traumatised child that if they don’t talk something bad will happen, like their head exploding! It’s an awful video and needs to be taken down and re thought.
Cara Cramp MA, MBACP (reg.)
Child & Adolescent Therapist, specialising in play & creative arts therapy.
 
Very disappointed in Childline for signing off on this. They had a huge opportunity here to really do right by anxious children by use of the media and they failed. It is being shown across the country, every time a child goes to watch a YouTube video they are being forced to watch it before their chosen video is played. As a Play Therapist in Ireland I feel sad to have seen this video. Sad for anxious children to know have another worry that their head might explode.
Anne-marie O’Riordan. Play Therapist PGDip. Play Therapy Wicklow
 
Well done Claire, You have really captured how awful it must be for a child in group 2 seeing this video. I think it’s really important that all childcare and mental health professionals in Ireland back you up and try to get the ISPCC to listen to us.
Linsey McNelis. BA Hons, H DipPsych, PGDip

I totally agree with everything you have said. As a Play Therapist I was horrified when I saw the video. I can see it really making anxiety worse for many children. Thanks for taking the time to write this excellent piece.
Hilary McFaul. Dip Play Therapy

I am a trainee play therapist & have an anxious daughter. I can see her reaction to this and anticipate the nightmares as she thinks her worries will cause her head to explode.
Sian, Play Therapy Student

I cannot believe that this video is being used to attempt to ‘support’ children. It appears to do the complete opposite by making fun of their pain, and then creating anxiety inducing images for their wonderful young minds to ‘mull over’.
Annie, Play Therapy Diploma Student

PLEASE FEEL FREE to share this with your community. 

Headbomz – The talking campaign that made me need to talk and say THIS

Headbomz – The talking campaign that made me need to talk and say THIS

I saw something yesterday that really bothered me.
I could just let it be, move on, pretend it’s no big deal – but that doesn’t feel right. I need to write this. I really feel it’s the right thing to do.
So what did I see?
The video for the newly launched Headbomz campaign.
‘Headbomz’ has been launched by ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) Childline in partnership with and funded by Vodafone Ireland Foundation. The video was created by award winning Aardman Animations (of the much less gory, Wallace + Gromit and Shaun the Sheep fame). If you haven’t seen it, I’ll post the link at the bottom of this article.
It is a campaign apparently aimed at children aged 8-10 years to let them know that ‘Talking Makes Us Stronger’. The subliminal message is that if they ‘talk about things, they will keep their head for longer’… otherwise it will explode.
Technically the video is really well made, no surprise there. The animations are powerful, graphic and seamless. The song is catchy and certainly delivers high impact and strong ‘ear-worm’ factor. It is going to be played on TV in Ireland and in cinemas, and in all primary schools, who will also have packs to give teachers tips to help facilitate a FUN discussion with pupils‘. The packs are being sent to schools all over Ireland. And everything in me is screaming ‘no!’

So let me explain why I’m bothered. Let me explain a bit about myself.

After many years as a primary school teacher, over 12 years as a children’s play therapist, (often working with kids who CAMHS couldn’t reach) and more recently supporting primary schools who want a therapeutic approach to understanding their children, I specialize in working with children and adults who are still living with anxiety, chronic health conditions and other factors as a result of childhood trauma. I have a fare bit of knowledge and experience in the child-mental health field.
I know a few things about children with anxiety. I know from professional experience and because I have been there too following my own car crash several years ago. I know anxiety from the inside out, from the bottom up and not just the top down (not just head knowledge) like many professionals who know about it, talk about it, but haven’t yet really met it personally.
I know how those really worrying, anxious children will respond to this video.
It won’t be good.
Anxiety is a powerful, whole body experience. It feels like an overwhelming tidal wave of dis-empowerment. It affects heart, stomach, lungs and muscles all over our body, as well as our brain. It affects our nervous system, it affects our survival mechanisms, and it affects our voice too. When we are truly experiencing the power of anxiety it isolates us, shuts us down and makes it 500,000,000 times harder to connect to anyone else. I won’t get technical, but it is a powerful, visceral, experience and it can feel like your HEAD IS going to EXPLODE.

So why am I saying all this? Why am I taking the time to write this article?

Because the Headbomz campaign had a national launch recently, and was featured on the ISPCC Childline Facebook site, where the post (last time I looked) had 111 likes, hearts and laughs.
emoji-happy
Am I the only person who is concerned? – Well, it would seem so, according to the people commenting, and those involved with making it. However, discussion in another Facebook group among other experienced children’s therapists encountered the following comments:-

-Wow- My first reaction- it’s absolutely horrific! Graphic, gross, sensationalist.
Can’t see myself using this and I cannot see how it could be helpful to children.
-I don’t like this at all!
-Also they are telling children that if they talk about it, will be fine. We all know that this is the hardest way for kids to express themselves so if they can’t talk about it, explosions will happen, not great for anxious kids.
-creepy! scary! hard to understand.
-It’s horrible. Aardman usually do fun stuff like Shaun the Sheep, don’t they? Gentle stuff, not horrific head explosions! No, Headbomz, this isn’t right.
-That is intense and painful to watch as a therapist.
-The message is very “in your face” and the volatile head explosions could be perceived as frightening.
-What concerns me most is that someone in a child mental health organisation signed it off.

There were no likes. No hearts. No laughs.

These comments may seem boring, harsh and poo-pooing, but I believe that, rather than ‘facebook rant’, they are all comments grounded in experience of working with children who have significant worries and need help to cope with life. These are all people who are spending their days working at the coal face of children’s mental health. People who know how powerful internalised feelings in children can be. People who are championing the cause and are USUALLY celebrating every time issues around children’s mental health are raised in the media…

ROLLING IT OUT

I have an image in my mind – of a class of 8-10 year olds being shown the video by a well meaning teacher – who is probably very grateful to have such a professionally produced resource to kick start the discussion around worries and anxiety and talking. I observe classes of children this age regularly and can picture it really clearly.
There will be many of the children who have (thankfully) not yet become intimately acquainted with significant worry or anxiety, who watch the cartoon at face value, enjoy the catchy tune and respond to the animation the way so many did on FB – by laughing.
And then there will be those other children, the silent sufferers. Those who are intricately harnessed to anxiety. Who have become so entwined with it they don’t know anymore what is them and what is anxiety… And who they would be if anxiety ever went away…
They know the reality of feeling sick, feeling hot and the horrible familiar tightness in their body as the pressure builds inside.
They will know that anxiety freaks them out, immobilizes them and …. is nothing they could EVER laugh about.
But the thing is now their peers are learning about worries and anxiety and they are all laughing. So what does that mean? It means that instead of feeling more able to talk about what happens with them (which incidentally ANY therapist will know is incredibly hard for ADULTS to do and near impossible for children until they feel really, really safe and secure with the person they are with) they will feel even more isolated. The sense of people not understanding them increases, and they are alone in their overwhelm again.

Those are the kids that I feel sick for when I watch the video.

 

A PLEA TO TEACHERS

IF you are a teacher handed this resource for your class. PLEASE consider the following, before you decide to show the video and make worries and anxiety a ‘light and fun experience’ – for everyone in the class apart from the kids it is meant to help.

  1. Children will only be able to acknowledge their own anxiety to people they feel VERY emotionally safe with. Occasionally this is a teacher, but more often it will not be. Don’t assume it is you.
  2. If you have leeway to talk about the video from an objective perspective with your class before they watch it, you will give your ones who don’t like it, more room to say so.
  3. In fact an anonymous vote after they watch it, (if they HAVE to watch it) will probably be your best bet to get as near to the truth about how it makes them feel when they are watching it, and whether they have ever experienced anything like this before.
  4. Be aware that if their peers laugh at graphic images of children experiencing strong emotions and significant anxiety, that will have a HUGE effect on them. If YOU LAUGH while you are watching the video with them, then their isolation seal is final. Not even the adult who they have to spend everyday with in school understands what it is really like for them being them.
  5. If you approach the whole topic with HUGE honesty and admit to your children if you have experienced this, then you have more chance of them coming with you. Acknowledge though that for each person the reason and exact experience of strong feelings and anxiety can be different. Please tell themYOU DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT FEELS LIKE IN THEIR SHOES, even if you have experienced it in your own.
  6. If you approach the topic with MIGHTY amounts of respect, empathy and acknowledge that you have never experienced this, then you can honour those kids who have (whether they acknowledge it in any way or not) with having gone through something in life that you haven’t – and in that way they will be your teacher.

Let me be clear. I am grateful for organisations like Childline who provide initial support for children who don’t know where else to turn. Childline is a chance for a brave child who feels they have no one else to speak to, to experience really being listened to, whether on the phone or online. Often just talking doesn’t change things for children, but being heard is ALWAYS a powerful positive experience.
I believe that the biggest universal impact of the benefit of Childline’s service is helping children BE noticed and BE HEARD. It is a real shame to me that, with the resources that went into this campaign, the video didn’t focus on this, rather than the excessive exploding heads. Surely an opportunity missed.
It also concerns me that with the wide-spread approach to raising awareness, younger children will be subjected to seeing this video on their TVs, computers and cinema trips. There will be some sensitive little ones out there who were fine before they saw it, but now…
Wouldn’t it be great, instead of sending fear based messages ‘talking makes us stronger – so if you can’t talk you must be really weak’ – or the simple counterpart (talk or else you head explodes) to send a positive message to children about ‘talking to people who really listen helps us feel better‘? No one would have nightmares about that… It might even encourage more calls to Childline.
I’m no graphics genius, but I can already imagine there could be some really powerful images to go with it too.
My concern is for all the children who are already inmates in the anxiety prison, convinced there is no way they could currently talk about things they are going through. I can only hope and pray that somehow they will not now also be burdened with seeing their peers and society laughing at internalised emotions and anxiety = laughing at them. They don’t need to fear more consequences for their body than they are already dealing with in silence.
My heart is exploding with concern for these children. I wrote this post for them. For these precious ones,

it’s not fun.

It’s not funny.

May we never disrespect children already suffering with mental health issues by suggesting it is.

If you haven’t seen it, but want to, here it is. Feel free to let me know what YOU think in the comments below. – SCROLL DOWN A LONG WAY!!

I have continued to receive messages from parents and children’s therapists and teachers working with children who have been affected by this video. What I feared is being played out. I have written a follow-on article to explain more about the impact this is having. You can read it here.
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A plea to anyone thinking about starting counselling or therapy

A plea to anyone thinking about starting counselling or therapy

This is an important message for anyone starting any professionally supported healing journey.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am an advocate for people of all ages, getting help and support when we need it. There are times we all need someone who is professional, appropriately trained, qualified and experienced to walk with us for a bit. I have been there. It can really help.

However, I recently heard the experience of a dear lady who had been referred for counselling by her GP.
She is a sweet, caring, funny, and well mannered lady. She comes from the generation who grew up before technology. No TV, phones, texts, tweets or Facebook. And as do many survivors of childhood trauma, she has strong values around not hurting people, or doing or saying anything that might make someone upset.

She had been struggling with physical and mental challenges for over 3 years, and finally found the strength to ask her GP for help.
Desperate to start to feel better, she plucked up all her courage and arrived for a counselling session – the first of the 6 she was allocated.

She didn’t like it much. When I asked her why not, she explained ‘the lady’ sat behind her table and spent a lot of the time staring out of the window. “It was strange. She didn’t look at me, I’m not sure if she was listening, she just kept looking out of the window – I thought she must be on the look out for a nice young man!”

This is not ok.

It is  SO.   NOT.   OK.

When she told me this I kept myself professionally together, but noticed an internal volcano erupt. It was a combination of sadness for this precious lady who was treated this way, and absolute indignant rage that she was treated this way by a ‘professional’ who is supposed to help her get better, not make things worse.

This is not how it is supposed to be. And the truth is it is not how it is for many, many people. But it had been her experience and sadly it can happen. So should it be of interest to you or anyone you know, here is my advice. This is my plea.

DO THIS TO HELP FIND THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL FOR YOU

1. If you ever find yourself meeting someone for the first time, who has the credentials to see you through a journey of healing (mind, body or spirit) then please, please, please, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you do not feel safe in every way, with them, your journey with them will be a superficial one at best, a waste of time at middle, and further damaging to you at worst.

2. Please vote with your feet, and if you are not comfortable, and don’t feel you can challenge the practitioner (I know this would have been impossible for me when I was post-trauma suffering with depression or anxiety symptoms) just don’t go back again. You don’t need to. It’s about getting YOU the right help match for you. Either you could ask for a different professional from the same organisation to work with or go somewhere completely different.

3. See your first meeting as an interview or audition... and it’s not you on trial; it’s the professional. If they don’t meet the simple and appropriate criteria of making you feel SAFE, HEARD, RESPECTED and UNDERSTOOD, or if anything feels ‘off’ to you, then just be grateful you didn’t go any further down the line with them and move on.

I fully understand that it takes some real emotional energy to do this – much easier to go along with what the ‘professionals’ say. However I think many people don’t realise that they can and SHOULD have a voice and need to OPT IN to working with someone you feel will be a good match for you.

As my conversation continued, I was hoping to hear how this lady’s horrible experience got resolved. It didn’t get better – she just stuck it out. She kept going – attended all 6 of her allocated sessions, “but I didn’t really say very much. It didn’t help me at all really.” After her final session she was sent a feedback form through the post. She dutifully filled it in and sent it back. What did she put? “Oh I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I just ticked good or excellent for everything.” I understand why she did this.

Whilst the improvement of mental health is a massive deal at the moment, so is keeping the standards of the professionals privileged with this work appropriately high.
I never agree to work with anyone, adult or child, until we have had chance to meet and they have a chance to check me out and see how they feel with the journey to get to me and being in the room. We know who we feel safe with. We know when we don’t.

If you don’t feel safe, don’t go back there.

4. Do not assume all counselling experiences are the same.  If you have already been through a similarly ineffective experience, and know you are still not OK, then consider trying out some different types of therapy.
Creative Arts therapists are a great choice for people who know there are things in them but not sure how to get the words out.
There is a whole new approach where a therapist works with you to release tension from your body, without you having to talk about what has gone on at all if you don’t want to (TRE).
Thankfully, on the suggestion of a close family member, this precious lady, came to try TRE and is already well on the way to living life better now than she has in years / decades.

You don’t have to stay stuck.

There is healing.

There is HOPE.

There is HELP – when you find the right person and approach for you.

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6 Things you should know about how play therapy training will change you and your relationships.

6 Things you should know about how play therapy training will change you and your relationships.

So you want to train to be a play therapist?
Really?
There are a few things you should know, that none of the play therapy training materials will tell you.
Firstly, you will likely develop a life-long penchant for ‘collecting’ miniature items from shops, car boots, friends children’s toy collections, holiday destinations, and anywhere else.
Secondly, you will develop a ninja-level ability to get the phrase “I wonder” into any conversations
Thirdly, you will never be the same again.

The first 2 we can smile about. They will impact your bank balance, your storage space and your conversation skills, but apart from that they are relatively insignificant 🙂  (actually #2 is very significant, but that’s for another day…)
The third point is the one we really need to talk about.

Therapists are nice people on the whole. They want to help others. They want to make the world a better place. They want to see growth and healing and nice things… Yes?
So training to be a therapist – even a playing one, has got to make you a nicer person…yes?
So how is it that so many people who go through the training to become play therapists end up (albeit often a few years later) splitting up with their partners? Yes this is true. I don’t have official research statistics to prove this to you – just anecdotal numbers from the many courses I have been on or facilitated, and corroborated findings with others.

number-6So here we go.
Real-talk time coming up.

6 observations why play therapy training could be dangerous if you like things just the way they are.

 

1.  One of the key elements about a good training to become a play therapist is being able to maintain boundaries for your client.

You cannot maintain good, strong and healthy boundaries for a child if you cannot do it for yourself first.
Establishing and maintaining boundaries is something to be learnt, and often needs careful consideration and intention. Many people never consider this aspect of their lives.
Many of the excellent play therapy training courses available, help students discover the dysfunctional patterns in their lives, they become aware of their own pain, and how they have developed ‘dances’ with others to get their child-hood, inner pain-based needs met. They learn about the importance of establishing healthy boundaries for protecting the precious.

2. Students discover whether they are still controlling situations, people or whole families to keep the boat from being rocked.

They discover if they are still hiding who they really are from people around them to keep the boat from being rocked.
They discover why they really fear the boat actually being rocked and realise they are now big enough to handle the waves.

3. Trainees discover if their relationships are health-giving or health-sucking.

They discover they have a voice now as a grown-up, which may not have been used as a child.
They discover that being a great therapist for a child means at times advocating for them. You cannot advocate for a child without using your voice, being seen and heard.

4. Journeying students discover how their subconscious speaks to them.

They realize things can change and the lies of being tiny, vulnerable, stuck and powerless they may have believed since childhood, can loose their power and truth can be established in their place.
They discover healing and growth are possible – who they are – their very bodies – become messages of hope to the children they work with.

5. They discover if there is an appropriate level of self care in their lives or not.

They discover that who they are is the most important thing to a child.
They discover that They. Are. Important.
They understand that they can and should be doing more to nurture themselves in every way.

6. They discover that they have power and they learn to use it.

The one who will bring change and growth; enable them to live the truth of who they are, respectfully and with appropriate boundaries; in the lifestyle they need to nurture themselves, is themselves. For this they are responsible.
The relationships they have will grow with them, become consciously changed or need to be released. [See above comments about relationships for evidence of how many relationships don’t seem to want to grow with them].

play-therapy-about-northern-ireland
To be a therapist you have to grow.
Therapists have to be able to be honest about who they are, why they are and what they want to do about that.
To be a therapist you have to grow.
To care for children in ways that keep you and them emotionally safe, means growing, learning, understanding yourself, your stuff, your pain-points, your healing, your boundaries and ability to defend and protect.

To work respectfully at these levels of responsibility, privilege and influence in a hurting child’s life, calls for health and growth and good condition.
Hurting children in adult bodies are not safe practitioners in the therapy room, classroom or anywhere.
To have a job working with children in any role DOES NOT require growth.
To become an excellent, effective, influential and inspirational practitioner with children in any role and any setting requires growth ABSOLUTELY.
To be a healthy, safe, vibrant ambassador and advocate for children does NOT mean you have to be a therapist.
But then you don’t have to train as a play therapist to grow 😉

Halloween has been – but not necessarily gone ~ Helping a child who has been scared by something fictional they’ve seen.

Halloween has been – but not necessarily gone ~ Helping a child who has been scared by something fictional they’ve seen.

I’m pretty sure it is not just me getting older, but I have been really struck over recent years by the amount of ‘Halloween’ in the shops and on the telly.
Stampa I’m not just talking about pumpkins and broomsticks. It seems that a more prolific and much darker element to costumes and decorations has swept through even the tamest of shops. TV programs on at prime time family viewing have had some really effective, but scary looking make up.
This year has been a long run up (I saw my first Halloween thing in a shop in August!!) to an event so many people have mixed views on…but love it or hate it, nobody, big or small, living an everyday life has been able to escape from it.
But now it is November. The parties and trick or treating are finished. It is over, and we can all start to focus on fireworks and Advent calendars… right? (Whilst possibly still munching through the masses of carving-leftover, pumpkin-based food items still in fridges/freezers).
eyes
One of the things that I have seen over and over again through my many years as a children’s therapist, is that what goes in the ‘eye gate’ stays in, until it can get properly processed.
We all understand that children shouldn’t be watching 18 horror films.
We know that certain images are not appropriate for little eyes.
But we seem to forget that what we as adults find OK, can be terrifying for children…and I’m not just talking about X-rated, or seriously scary stuff.
This is why it was so important to speak out about the impact the graphic HEADBOMZ campaign was having on some kids.

Dr Who. 

Eastenders. 

Holby City

The News…

…are just some of the TV programs children I have worked with, have watched and been bothered by. Then there are the films or computer games, and images on social media – all affecting children enough that they need to reprocess what they have seen in play therapy sessions.
[Incidentally these are things that no adult has EVER mentioned in referral meetings as something the child is struggling with].
I know that for many children the chance to dress up and pretend to be something scary is just lots of fun.
However, just in case you are around a child who has been bothered by what they saw in relation to Halloween, or any other time of year, the tips below might help.

How to help a child stop being bothered by something fictional they have seen.

Understand:

Be aware that if they have been affected by something on TV, Youtube, online else where or something in a shop that has been referred to by an adult or another child as ‘just make up‘ or ‘just a costume’ or ‘just an advert‘, admitting it has scared them will be 100 times harder.

Understand:

If you tease a child for being scared, if you tell them they are being silly and there is nothing to be scared of or in any other way let them know you don’t think they should be scared, then it is likely they will not feel understood by you. It is fine for you to be clear you are not scared, but if you make them wrong for being scared when they ARE feeling scared and now they are SCARED AND WRONG, and therefore it is not safe to open up to you.

Understand:

Fears that are not expressed outwardly, get trapped and distorted, and for children, often end up becoming nightmares. It is quite possible that children who are becoming more reluctant to head to bed in these next few days and weeks may be suffering from bad dreams because of something they have seen in the last few days weeks.


Acknowledge:

Everyone gets scarred by different things. That is a fact. There isn’t one person who is never, never scared.
Hiding the things we find scary makes them bigger inside us and makes it feel like they have more power.


Consider:

We can get them out in the open. Drawing or talking about or making them in play doh, junk-modelling boxes etc with people we feel safe with, is like putting the light on and they often shrink down to size. It also gives us chance to think about -or make up- their possible weaknesses (for the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz it was water).
 wizardofzwitchmelt9

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Explain:

Talk about the fact that however old we are, sometimes when we have seen something not nice on TV it can end up in our head when we are awake or in our dreams.

Create:

Ask the child to think about something that would be more powerful than the scary monster, witch, zombie etc. It can be a made-up something of course. Get them to describe in detail what makes that new power so powerful. If possible, if they feel safe with you, get them to draw it, make it (with your help?), talk and talk about it.

Create:

Then offer them the chance to create a story where the scary thing meets the good powerful thing..and let them decide how the good powerful thing will deal with the scary thing. (For many this will involve some method of killing it.)

Reflect:

Simply wonder out loud in a curious, but not interrogatory way, “I wonder how it feels to know that the …..(good powerful thing) was more powerful than the scary thing?” and then really listen to what the child says.

Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear in the comments below or send me a private message.
Let’s vanquish the monsters and let creative light shine to over power darkness.
light-overcomes-darkness
Communicating with children when they say “it’s boring!”

Communicating with children when they say “it’s boring!”

The other day I overheard a child tell his teacher he didn’t want to go home. Why not? “Because it’s boring.” As soon as I heard him I started to wonder what he really meant. I never got to find out as the teacher started cajoling him with all the exciting things he could do at home that evening.
We all say what we mean all the time, yes?
I’m sure you do, and I will admit that at times I might not completely either. 😉
Children are no different. At times it’s obvious – ‘it wasn’t me’ said with chocolate-covered-face, and other times a whole lot more subtle.

I don’t like geography! Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t like play time. Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t want to go home. Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t want to go to school. Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t want to be in the football team anymore. Why not? It’s boring.
You bored yet?!

If you are around children at all, this one may seem obvious, but it is a keeper for cracking the code of child communication: when a child says “it’s boring” that may not be what they really mean. 
There are occasions when a child might accurately and appropriately use the word boring. However, in my experience, 80-90% of the time BORING is code for ….. All sorts of things.

Boy Hiding Behind Door --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Boy Hiding Behind Door — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I can’t do it.
I feel scared.
I don’t understand.
Children pick on me.
I don’t have any friends.
The teacher shouts a lot.
I don’t feel safe.
I don’t like what happens there.
I’m scared of getting it wrong…
I’m scared…

The little one I overheard wasn’t encouraged or inspired by thoughts of what he could do that evening.
He had reached out in code and not been understood.
The teacher was talking a different language.
Answering a child with solutions for why home, football, school or anywhere else isn’t really boring, or listing off things they can do to make it not boring could be missing the precious point.
Question-mark-red-3D-glossy

How can you reply to this statement when you don’t know what it really means?
I don’t think you can. And instead of guessing and trying or assuming, I wonder what might happen if we, the grown-ups, put all our energy into acknowledging there might be some code language going on, and be willing to engage further.

If a child reaches out to us in code, we can’t assume that they want us to help them decipher it, but we could surely foster an attitude of curiosity and wonder what they have hiding behind their ‘Boring’.

There are certain things we can say and do that increase or decrease communication at times like this. If you want to get better at dancing through these moments in a way that builds trust and keeps the child emotionally safe, try out some of the 5 Communications Cues for getting Beyond Boring that are available download for FREE. Print them off and keep to hand for when you need a reminder.

5CCs Beyond Its Boring-FB pic

5 Communiction Cues to Move Beyond “it’s boring” Get FREE download here

Meaning what you say

and saying what you mean is a hard thing to learn… for all of us when we aren’t sure of the response we will get.