Timeline of My Life: Timelines are a highly adaptable activity that can be used for a wide range of therapeutic purposes. Examples are using them during the assessment phase to get a clearer picture of a client’s journey (ex. I often do this with foster youth), or in TF-CBT when trauma narratives are being created for multiple events. Follow the links below to view directions on how to create each of the timelines pictured above (numbered from left to right, top to bottom).
The UCLA MSW diversity recruitment fair is coming up for anyone who is considering applying. It’s a great opportunity to talk to faculty and current students to get your questions answered. They will also give you feedback on your personal statement. Click here to register.
Free Online CBITS Training: CBITS (“see-bits”) is commonly implemented within Los Angeles schools to address high rates of trauma in the community. It is essentially TF-CBT, but adapted for a group/school setting. It often consists of 10 group, 3 individual (for trauma narrative/exposure work), and 2 parent sessions (there is also sometimes a teacher component). Mental health resources are often scarce, with many schools employing only one psychiatric social worker, so this program is designed to reach more youth than individual services would and has a class-wide screening tool that helps identify which kids could benefit from services. If you have TF-CBT training then the online CBITS course (mostly taught via videos) alone should be enough for therapists to create their own groups. The training is free and you can decide if you want to buy a hard copy of the training manual for $45.
I definitely do! A lot of it is really obvious but might be helpful anyway. Here are my thoughts off the top of my head:
- Use materials like handouts. These materials should be tailored to the participants’ functional abilities and help them engage in the session and stay focused.
- Use a whiteboard or something else to work as a group. Write your agenda (and have an agenda!) for each session on your whiteboard and then go through each task on the whiteboard. Have something for participants to direct their attention to, not just you and your voice.
- Have activities- discussion, handouts, interactions, role plays, videos.
- Go slowly. Really slowly. Like three times as slowly as you think you need to as you’re reading this. Not really even because of any disabilities, but because it’s much harder and slower teaching people this stuff than you think.
- Repeat things, a lot. For the same reason as #4.
- Remember that each person will be at a different functional level. You need to figure out where this is and attempt to tailor the class simultaneously to each level. One way that often works is to get a participant who is better at one particular thing to help another participant is less good at that thing.
- That agenda should always include some time to go over what you talked about last time and make sure everybody is on the same page, to go over the homework (there should be homework), and to review that day’s session and homework.
- Engage the participants as much as possible. In a really good group, they will talk more than you.
- Be respectful, positive, and person oriented.
- Consider doing individual meetings if necessary to work on specific skills or homework.
I hope that helps!
Therapy101 also provided some tips on things to consider when running groups for children here.
Expressive art can be a great tool for working with someone that has low self-esteem or body image issues. The self-esteem heart is a great activity for helping clients explore the causes and triggers of low self-esteem, as well as create a discussion around ways to cope. Picture and idea inspired from here.
DIY Sensory Substances: Here are some links to some super simple sensory tutorials. Click here for more compilations.
- DIY Water Beads (Boba)
- Crackle Foam (Shaving cream/pop rocks)
- Sludge (Corn starch/detergent)
- Glow Dough (Baking soda/Florescent paint)
- Rainbow Rice (Rice)
- Clean Mud (Baking soda/water)
- Ice Pack (Dish soap)
- Dish Soap Foam (Detergent)
- Bubble Dough (Corn starch/dish soap)
- Soap Dough (Ivory soap)
- Rainbow Spagetti (Spagetti)
Creating Your Child Therapy Office: Now that the school year has started I have been getting a lot of questions from new therapists/interns wanting advice on setting up their offices.
Click here to view an article I wrote for SocialWorkHelper with tips for new therapists. Topics include putting together a basic starter kit, cost saving ideas, creating a mobile/portable office, your first sand tray, DIY tutorials, office decor, and a toy-list.
Control is something that comes up often during my sessions. Survivors have had their power taken away from them in the worst ways, and regaining control in their life can be difficult. It’s even harder for teenagers, who already have little control in their lives as it is. When clients tell me how they are feeling overwhelmed due to feeling like they have little control in their lives, I have the create “Control Circles”.
On a sheet of paper I have the client draw a small circle, and a bigger circle around it. In the center circle, I have them write all the things they can control (sometimes they may need help this section; if they are having difficulty, ask them if they can control what they eat, what they wear, how they handle their feelings, how they treat others, etc.). On the outside circle, I have them write things that they can’t control in their lives (try to gently direct them to keep it more on an individual level of things that affect them, otherwise they may have a pretty big list of things that may not actually be currently affecting them, such as war).
Most of the time people will list more things they can control than they can’t. In this case, this activity is a great tool to help them keep things in perspective. Remind them that although they may feel overwhelmed by the things they can’t control, they still have more power in their life than they realize. If a person lists more things out of their control than in their control, use it as an opportunity to assist them in exploring what they could do or change to help them feel more in control (i.e. setting boundaries, time management, cooking, etc.).
I have found this to be useful for working with both teens and adults. Idea inspired from The Creative Counselor
Feelings Hide and Seek
- Print and cut out feeling faces or write different emotions on cards.
- Hide the cards around your office before the child arrives, or while they are not looking.
- If they can express certain emotions with ease, hide those in plain sight or an easily findable spot. More difficult feelings or ones that are they attempt to suppress can be hidden more carefully. For those that tend to cover up their true emotions, hide feelings together (ex. putting “happy” on top of another card). I often write the hidden emotions on larger pieces of paper to illustrate how avoiding feelings makes them stronger in the long run.
- Have them start looking for the cards. Each time they find one, they bring it back to you and talk about that feeling (ex. Describe a time they felt that way, Discuss ways they attempt to hide/avoid that feeling, etc.) This game is easily modified to fit different ages and therapeutic issues (Photo Source)
The way I phrased things wasnt clear (sorry!). The kids I see have serious behaviors and affect dysregulation. I wasnt referring to specific disabilities (though we do see those kids too). Trauma and the other issues I mentioned all have a profound impact on early brain development. The developmental delays our psychologist assess for include socio-emotional dev as well as motor, communication, etc. So the kids I see have behavior issues related to their development/trauma, rather than primarily due to to something like a need for more parenting skills (though we do work on that as well). Does that make sense?
So there is the Mental Health Therapist (me), Child Psychologist, Pediatric Neuropsychologist, Pediatrician, Public Health Nurse, Occupational Therapist, and Speech Therapist. We also have “Parent Partners” that help parents with the school/special Ed/IEP process, and “Family Partners” that provide “wrap-around” services in the home and connect families to other resources (ex. housing, food, etc.). Child welfare social workers are also invited to be involved in treatment planning meetings (though they dont usually attend). Our location that deals with adults provides any services the parents need for themselves.
DBT Skills Resources: Model for Describing Emotions
The Emotion Regulation Handout 4: Ways to Describe Emotions
DIY Crayon Wall Art: Crayons are cheap and can easily be made into cool office art. Click the links below to view directions on how to create each of the pictured pieces (numbered from left to right, top to bottom).