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Child Therapy Techniques - The Center for Practical Tools for Child and Adolescent Therapists

Dr. David A. Crenshaw, Director  

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Dr. Crenshaw is the proud recipient of The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hudson Valley Psychological Association.

Dr. Crenshaw is co-editing a series of books for Guilford.  Please click here for his Guilford books and ordering information.

 Rosie, first NY trial dog and what you can do to support Rosie's Law

"Heartfelt Feelings" Coloring Cards

Certified translations in 8 languages

Find out about Dr. Crenshaw and his books at Amazon Author Page

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Dr. Crenshaw's latest books

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Dr. Crenshaw's book Bereavement: Counseling the Grieving throughout the Life Cycle is so successful that it is now in its third printing and earned an average customer rating of 4.0 out of 5 starsfrom Amazon.com      

Read Dr. Crenshaw's articles in Play Therapy magazine by clicking on title: "Should I Be Worried?"  "Selective Mutism" "Preverbal Trauma" "No Time or Place for Child's Play" "Sounds of Silence" "Symbolism of Windows and Doors in Play Therapy" "The Wonder of It All" "Rosie Goes to Court"  "Secrets Told to Ivy"  with permission of Play Therapy Magazine.  

Two New Poetry Books By David A. Crenshaw (click on titles for details)       The Vision of the Heart  and A Place of Healing and Hope

Books below are available in paperback at 20% discount. To order click on the book images below or simply call 1-800-462-6420.  Code # 4W9CAPBK.  If you want to read reviews first, click on book title under the book image.

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy: Wounded Spirits and Healing Paths,

Therapeutic Engagement of Children and Adolescents

Understanding and Treating the Aggression of Children: Fawns in Gorilla Suits

Understanding and Treating Aggressive Children: Fawns in Gorilla Suits

Handbook of Play Therapy with Aggressive Children

 

Evocative Strategies in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Home
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Dr. Crenshaw's Publications
DVD on Grief
CHILD THERAPY TECHNIQUES:
...Heart Symbol Strategies
...Heartfelt Feelings Coloring Card Kit
...Party Hats on Monsters
...Anger Modulation Drawings
...The Ship Prepares for Voyage
...The Magic Key
...The Fair Trial
...The Tree at the Top of the Hill
...Falling Leaves
...Holiday Writing Exercises
...Three Doors
Articles for Parents and Teachers
Article: Empathic Healer
Article: The Fawns beneath the Gorilla Suits
Article: The Hidden Dimensions
Article: Sounds of Children's Silence
Article: Windows to the Child’s Soul
Article: Selective Mutism
Article: Sealing off the Fountain
Article: by Liana Lowenstein, MSW
Article: Rosie the Golden Retriever
Poetry... Musings of the Soul
...Multicultural Language of Healing a Child
...Poetry Book-The Vision of the Heart
...Poetry Book-A Place of Healing and Hope
Tribute to Survivors of Domestic Violence
"My Wish for Children"
YouTube Videos
About Dr. Crenshaw
Translations
 

Mailing Address

David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP 205 Dogwood Court Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Phone:  (845) 489-8661

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Copyright © 2004-2015 by David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP. All rights reserved.

"The Volcano Speaks"

 A Three Step Anger Modulation Strategy


Many children seen in clinical settings are not having trouble expressing their feelings but rather they have major difficulty controlling their feelings. The child therapy and play therapy literature is saturated with techniques to enable children to be more expressive of their feelings and this is helpful to an internalizing, anxious, depressed, or inhibited child. Children, who act-out or externalize their feelings, however, don’t need help in being more expressive, they need help in being expressive in an appropriate way. This three-step drawing strategy was developed by Dr. Crenshaw to teach the crucial skill of modulating anger for externalizing kids whose presenting problem is reactive-impulsive anger and aggression.  Dr. Janine Shelby, a trauma specialist, at UCLA points out that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), although of proven efficacy, tends not to be "child friendly," (cerebral and dry).  The new "Volcano Speaks" strategy is designed to be "child friendly."

Step One (Scaling through artistic expression): Using metaphors from nature, ask the child to make a picture of a volcano, or a storm (thunderstorm, tornado, hurricane)that would show just how angry the child was on a particular occasion (such as when he/she was thrown out of the baseball game). Alternatively, they can draw an angry monster
or a fire-breathing dragon if they prefer that would depict just how angry they felt in the given situation (e.g., when they hit their teacher). This step involves the child scaling his experience. If the picture shows a passing thunderstorm it is relatively low on the anger thermometer scale; if on the other hand the tornado or hurricane blasts through and levels the town or the volcano erupts and spews hot lava and engulfs neighboring villages, the anger thermometer is maxed out. By emphasizing that there are degrees of anger this step can teach children with anger control problems that it need not be an all or none proposition. The artistic expression of their anger also offers practice in a safe and socially acceptable way of expressing anger. Dr. Crenshaw has not known of anyone who has gotten into trouble for making pictures of volcanos or storms or even angry monsters/dragons.

Step Two (Verbalization): The most crucial skill in developing the ability to modulate anger is learning the use of verbal mediation. When children are able to express anger through words instead of biting, kicking, and hitting they have taken a big step toward expressing their anger constructively. The child can be instructed: “Pretend that the volcano (or storm or angry monster) can talk and give words to the anger it feels, what would it be saying?” The child can write directly on his picture the words the volcano, storm, or angry monster would use to express it’s feelings. If they prefer that the therapist or parent or other adult do the writing that is no problem. It is important, however, to allow them to use their natural language for expressing raw emotion. This is no time to insist on use of the King’s English. Remember we are trying to move from biting, kicking, punching to verbalization so that is a major accomplishment. We can work on finding more appropriate use of language at a later time. A child may be sent to the principal’s office for using foul language but they won't be in nearly as much trouble as they would if they belted a child in the mouth. It is also important to try to get them to verbalize as many ways of expressing the anger of the chosen metaphor (volcano, storm, angry monster) as possible. “What else would the storm say about how angry it is?” By pushing the child for additional ways of expressing the anger into language they are getting vital practice in verbal mediation.

Step Three (Problem-Solving): This is a crucial step in which the therapist, parent, or teacher engages the child in problem-solving and finding other alternatives to exploding, erupting, destroying everything in the path etc. The therapist or other adult can say to the child, “Suppose the volcano noticed it was starting to get angry at this early point (point to a lower point within the volcano far from the erupting point at the top) or suppose the storm before it became a category two storm was able to find a way to calm itself, what do you think are some ways it could do that?” It is important to use language that teaches children a vocabulary for these lower level angers so that they once again are taught there are many degrees on the scale. You can say, “Let’s pretend that the volcano was only irritated or annoyed at that point, not really that angry, what do you think it could do to calm itself?” Children are being asked at this step to problem solve and generate alternatives. As they propose an option, such as “Talk to someone,” or “Think about something else,” or “Take a deep breath,” it is crucial to follow-up and ask them how they think that would have worked out? “Could all that destruction have been avoided?” If a child blocks and is unable to think of alternatives the therapist or other adult should offer a menu of coping strategies for the child to pick from: “Could it get more information, clarification?” “Could it turn to a friend for support?” “Could it take a time-out to think the situation over?” “Could it take three deep breaths and try to just relax and stay calm?” “Could it just say to itself, ‘This will pass, everything will be okay, I will get through this?” The therapist or adult is modeling for the child some important CBT coping strategies. The prime deficit for an impulsive-reactive aggressive child is the inability to stop and reflect on their impulses and feelings. This is an important way that the child can be given practice in developing these crucial problem-solving skills.

© Copyright 2004 by David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

 

Party Hats on Monsters

 

Please revisit to learn additional techniques, which will be added on.

More projective techniques and their use are in Dr. Crenshaw's book: Engaging Resistant Children in Therapy: Projective Drawing and Storytelling Techniques SOLD OUT

 

 

More Reading:

  • Fight

  • Fire

  • First

  • Fixed

  • Flame

  • Flat

  • Flatten

  • Flight

  • Flour

  • Flower