Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Resolution Scrapbook as an Aid in the Treatment of Traumatized Children

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Resolution Scrapbook as an Aid in the Treatment of Traumatized Children

Article excerpt

Children are traumatized in different ways, and when treating traumatized children, the clinician must assess the nature of the trauma and its impact upon the individual child. Most significantly, the child's experience of the traumatic event must be understood, so that the clinician can devise a treatment plan that best responds to the particular effects of the trauma. Childhood trauma can be defined as the "mental result of one sudden, external blow or a series of blows, rendering the young person temporarily helpless and breaking past ordinary coping and defensive operations" [Terr 1991: 11]. Various factors determine whether a child will experience an overwhelming situation as traumatic. These factors include the severity of the situation; the child's genetic predisposition, preexisting personality, and developmental phase; available social supports; and previous trauma [Gil 1991: 19].

Research into childhood trauma as well as trauma assessment models have been emerging in the past decade [Eth & Pynoos 1985; Kluft 1985; Scurfield 1985; Van der Kolk 1987; Hindman 1989; Terr 1990; Kordich-Hall 1993]. These conceptualizations have provided clinicians with a better understanding of the impact of trauma on children, and the behavioral sequelae that children bring to treatment.

Once a trauma assessment has been conducted, the therapist can build a treatment plan aimed at directing the child toward trauma resolution. Working through a traumatic experience involves the process of "sorting, dissecting, resolving, returning, undoing, and freeing the child within" [Hindman 1989: 375]. It is important to note that trauma resolution does not mean that the emotional pain disappears. Traumatic experiences are continually reworked at various points in time. Ultimately, however, a positive trauma resolution evolves when the child has been able to:

1. Work through the trauma in a realistic way.

2. Experience whatever levels of pain, anger, or loss are elicited by a clear memory of the event.

3. Perceive the traumatic event accurately.

4. Recognize that he [or she] is not responsible for having caused the event.

5. Understand that the experience occurred in the past.

6. Function without feeling devastated by the memory of the event.

7. Refrain from the need to repeat the event, either on a conscious or unconscious level. [Gil 1991: 21].

In facilitating the trauma resolution process, clinicians have a wide variety of child therapy methods from which to choose. The selection of a therapeutic method will depend on the clinician's background, interest, and skill, and on the unique needs of the client. This article offers a description of the resolution scrapbook technique, originally developed by Hindman [1989] in her innovative work with sexually abused children. The technique has been modified and adapted by this writer so that it could be used with children struggling with various forms of trauma, including family violence, divorce, and bereavement.

The resolution scrapbook is a therapeutic book that the child completes with the assistance of the clinician. The therapist provides the child with various treatment activities, which, once completed, are placed in the scrapbook. The scrapbook allows the child to participate in a "wide variety of doing activities" [Hindman 1989: 437]. Indeed, this is a structured and experiential approach to treatment, which is used in order to "elicit material from the child that is unlikely to emerge spontaneously, and to demonstrate that the issues need not be shameful and can be dealt with directly" [James 1989: 3). Thus, the clinician structures the therapy sessions by selecting scrapbook activities that facilitate or lead the child in directions that are seen to be beneficial. The number and variety of therapeutic activities are wide and are described later.

As children tend to develop strong defense mechanisms to cope with psychic pain, significant portions of personal history and memories of traumatic events may become repressed. …

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