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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

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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

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DVD on Grief
CHILD THERAPY TECHNIQUES:
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...Anger Modulation Drawings
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Article: Empathic Healer
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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"
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About Dr. Crenshaw
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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 Fair Trial-Counteracting Shame

One of the Projective Drawing Strategies developed by Dr Crenshaw is The Fair Trial (Crenshaw, 2004, Crenshaw & Mordock, 2005).

     This intervention is designed to challenge shame-based beliefs so prevalent in aggressive children and impulsive kids who frequently get into trouble.  Often these kids view themselves as simply “bad kids.”  I subscribe to the philosophy expressed by a valued colleague, Charles Applestein, that “there is no such thing as a bad kid.”[1]  The negative messages these children receive, often from an early age, due to their problems with affect and impulse regulation, are often encoded with strong emotional intensity. As a result, calm, logical, reasoning with the child does little to dislodge such beliefs. The goal as Beverly James[2] states is to match the emotional intensity of the negative message that you are attempting to counteract.  This requires some creativity and ingenuity on the part of the child therapist. It should also be noted that longitudinal research has concluded that guilt, defined as condemnation of a specific act, is a healthy and constructive emotion, while shame, defined as condemnation of self is a destructive emotion associated with a wide range of psychopathology including aggression and violence.[3]  Thus, it is crucial for child therapists to find effective ways to challenge and dispute shame-based beliefs.

     One of my favorite interventions with shame-based beliefs in youngsters with impulse-disorders is The Fair Trial.[4]   I wait for harsh condemnation to arise in the symbolic play scenarios of these children.  Invariably, one of the play characters does something to get into trouble and often is given a harsh sentence: “He is going to jail for the rest of his life, with no visitors, and no chance to ever come out!”  Or, even more severe, is the death sentence; “He is to die in the electric chair tonight at midnight!”  At that point I intervene, “Whoa, hold on here. Your honor, I am the attorney for the defense and I think there is a rush to judgment here.  I would like to request the opportunity to present my case.”  If the judge permits, (if not I file an appeal) I present my case identifying some of the redeeming qualities of this fellow who seems always to get into trouble. An example follows:  “Your honor, I have known this young fellow, Tommy, for some time now, and I am here to say that by no means, no way, is he simply a bad kid.  Lots of people think he is a bad kid and he believes he is a bad kid.  But let me tell you what I know about him.  I know that he stands up for little kids who are being bullied by bigger kids. There are a lot of younger kids in the school he goes to who look to him for protection. I  also know he is very kind to animals. Just last week he found a stray kitten, took it home, and took care of it until his mother was able to find the kitten a good home.  Does that sound like a bad kid to you Judge?  I know he sometimes gets excited and he does not always control his temper, and sometimes he goes overboard in the things he does.  He sometimes doesn’t listen to his parents or teachers, but who ever heard of putting a kid away for life or sending them to an electric chair? This is a terrible mistake, Judge.  When people take the time to get to know Tommy they find out that he is a kid with a good heart, a big heart, and he deserves our support, not our harsh punishments.  I appeal to you, Judge, with all my heart, Tommy is not a bad kid, in fact, he is a good kid.  He just doesn’t know it. I rest my case.”

     If the judge denies my argument, I ask for adjournment so I can present new facts and work on making my case even stronger.  Eventually, after modeling my advocating for the so-called “bad kid,” I suggest that we switch roles and have the child be the defense attorney and make the case for the redeeming, good qualities in the “bad kid.”  When the child is able to make the case with some emotion and conviction behind it, I know that we have made progress in modifying the harsh self-condemnation of self portrayed in the handing out of harsh and unforgiving punishments of the play characters who, like him or her, are frequently in trouble.


[1] Appelstein, C. (1998). No such thing as a bad kid: Understanding and responding to the behavior of troubled children and youth. Weston: MA: The Gifford School.

[2] James, B. (1989). Treating traumatized children: New Insights and Creative Interventions. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

[3] Tangney, J. P. & Dearing, R. L. (2002). Shame and Guilt. New York: Guildford Press.

[4] Crenshaw, D. A. & Mordock, J. B.  (2005). Handbook of Play Therapy with Aggressive Children. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson.

 

 

More Reading:

  • Fight

  • Fire

  • First

  • Fixed

  • Flame

  • Flat

  • Flatten

  • Flight

  • Flour

  • Flower