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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 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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Article: Selective Mutism
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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
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"My Wish for Children"
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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 Fawns beneath the Gorilla Suits”

By David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, RPT-S

 

     Andy, a 3rd grader, is running on the playground and in his excitement he fails to watch out for others and bumps into another child.  The other child was blindsided and the force of the impact sent both boys hurling to the ground. Andy immediately lunges at the other boy and takes a swing at him because he assumes that a deliberate blocking of his path by the other child could only cause such a collision. There are many impulsive-reactive aggressive children like Andy who misinterpret the intentions of others and lash out in anger.

Millie is 14-years-old and is smoking a cigarette with some friends after school. She sees a girl in her class walking along the path in her direction. She hates this girl because this girl snubs her and insults her whenever the opportunity arises, usually at a moment that is embarrassing, if not humiliating for Millie. Millie sees this as her chance to settle a score that has caused her seething rage for more than 2 years. Millie pretends not to notice when the girl is approaching but as soon as she passes by the group, Millie charges her, grabs her by the hair, throws her to the ground, and starts punching her in the face. The school security guard seeing the commotion runs over to pull Millie, still swinging and enraged, off of the other girl.

Jeremy and his buddies wait for a 16 year-old to come out of his house while they are waiting in a park across the road. It is dark and one of Jeremy’s friends has arranged a meeting with the boy for the purposes of selling him drugs. This is only a ruse, however, because they want to settle a grudge with this kid for money that he owes Jeremy. Finally, the 16 year-old came out of his house and crossed the road to the park. When he enters the park he sees the friend he was supposed to meet but he doesn’t see Jeremy and the other guys. When he is about 3 feet away, Jeremy emerges from the bushes, punches the kid in the stomach, knocks him to the ground, kicks him in the head and punches him repeatedly. Then Jeremy, with little or no emotion, calmly walks away with his friends as if they were just taking a walk in the park.

The above three kids are all aggressive at times and the last two were violent in their assaults on their victims. But the nature of the aggression and the aggressor are very different in these three examples. Violence is ugly and hideous and can’t be condoned as a solution to problems. The causes of aggression and violence are complex and multi-determined.  Simple, reflexive responses, usually punitive, will not solve these problems. The approaches that are effective will not be same for Andy, or Millie, or Jeremy. Each will benefit from some interventions that apply to the others as well, but each will also require something different. Andy can benefit from a skills-based psychoeducational approach that will help him develop the capacity for more consistent affect regulation. Millie and Jeremy will require a more complex intervention. There is a complicated underlying painful emotional process that has to be addressed in the case of Millie in addition to learning the skills of affect regulation that Andy would be offered. Jeremy’s hurt goes even beyond Millie’s because he has reached the stage of “dehumanized loss” (Kenneth Hardy) and has lost his capacity to feel. He now is a menace to society because he no longer feels empathy, remorse, or even pain. The intervention with Jeremy will need to include all that is offered to Andy and Millie, but still more. The work will require helping him to recover his lost capacity to feel for himself or others. It will take longer and involve more steps than with Andy and Millie, but if the investment is not made we will lose kids like Millie, and Jeremy will likely end up in the correctional system which will only compound his deep sense of alienation from other human beings.

We can help youth like Andy, Millie, and Jeremy. I have referred to them in previous writing as “fawns in gorilla suits.” It takes courage, it takes resolve, it takes commitment, but it can be done. We will fail with some, but the rewards of helping an Andy, a Millie, or a Jeremy turn their life around are the very reason that most of us entered this incredibly challenging work in the first place. We do not get rewarded in the way some professions do with lucrative salaries and perks, but after nearly 38 years of doing this work, I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.  The rewards we receive are the immeasurable satisfaction of potentially touching the heart of a child--that “fawn beneath the gorilla suit.”

 

Copyright © 2007 by David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP.  All rights reserved.

 

 

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