Earlier this month The Nepali Times gave our Theraplay activity some very welcome exposure in a major article. Our volunteer consultant, Debbie Mintz, asked if we could just provide some clarification via a letter to the Editor.
Here is the link to the original article from the August 17th edition of the paper. Debbie’s excellent response is too long to be published so we are linking to this post in the comments section underneath the online version of the story.
Thank you for sending your reporter Sewa to meet with the therapy team at ChoraChori and for taking an interest in the recent addition of Theraplay to the methods being used to help the rescued and traumatised children to build trusting bonds and heal from their horrendous ordeals.
Although Theraplay is new to Nepal, this evidenced-based therapy was developed in the 1960’s in the U.S., and is currently practiced in over 50 countries.
The model focuses on developing secure relationships, strong attachments, adult structure and support, and the sort of nurturing that is imperative for all children, and has often been lacking for traumatised children. Establishing a secure relationship with a trusted adult allows a child to access and utilise natural reparative mechanisms. Therefore, in Theraplay treatment an attuned therapist guides the child sequentially through the phases of treatment so that safety and security can be established in the relationship. Once a child feels connected to their therapist, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set, and the traumatic history of the child can then be addressed directly within therapy sessions. This is different from other types of therapies that are focused on the child’s ‘problems’, as building on the relationship itself will lead to positive change; Theraplay is about doing repair, not thinking or talking about it.
I would like to address one small aspect of your original article, which is about the use of touch in Theraplay. Touch is a normal, natural and positive aspect of a healthy parent/child relationship. Therefore, various types of touch are essential to Theraplay treatment, where the safety and needs of the child are always the central goal for the therapist. At ChoraChori we used the trauma protocol for sessions, where use of touch is planned and initiated with particular sensitivity to the needs of chronically abused and neglected children, or children who have suffered severe trauma. Physical contact is initiated slowly, with primary focus on establishing a safe, engaging and playful experience in sessions for the child. However, once this safety is established, respectful touch that meets the individual needs of the child is very important.
Therapeutic touch is important because children who have been physically or sexually abused have been touched in a way that is detrimental to their health and development, so it is the therapist’s job to establish a new and positive experience for the child, where careful and respectful use of touch is actively planned and assessed to promote the recovery, emotional development and self-esteem of the child. There is no risk of abuse in Theraplay sessions. The risk is rather that children who have only been exposed to abusive physical contact will either become completely avoidant of all touch, or will seek or expect abusive physical contact because that is all they know. Theraplay is one of the only relational therapies that directly addresses this, and is always carried out with the utmost purpose and care.
My experience of working with the therapists at ChoraChori in this area was wholly positive and very moving. I think that I can speak for the charity’s Clinical Director, Sailu Rajbhandari, and counsellor, Anila Dangol, when I say that they were astonished by the connection that using Theraplay provided, and by how quickly this happened.
Theraplay continues at ChoraChori, with me supporting Sailu, Anila and the rest of the team to keep developing their skills and confidence via Skype. I hope to return to Nepal soon to provide what help I can.”
Keep up the good work, Debbie and the Nepali Times!