Use rhythmic, repetitive, rewarding activities in all parts of the program.
Give the clients constant experiences of pleasurable physical activities done with an engaged, playful, regulated adult.
You will be building brain connections and changing their deep-seated expectations of relationships.
How can you do this?
Every person in the treatment program must understand that their first and primary job is to help the client feel better. What can I do today to help this child feel safer, more appreciated, welcome, noticed, connected? Feeling better, less afraid, less hopeless will free the child to take the risk of acting better.
Especially at the beginning of treatment, deliberately fill the child’s day with activities that are physical, rhythmic, and regulating. This would include rocking, music, drumming, dance, Wii games, throwing and catching a ball, etc. The non-verbal connection with animals is also healing. As the child participates in rhythmic activities his own bodily rhythms and cycles will become more regular.
These activities must be done with active, engaged, hopeful adults. Using the body activates the lower brain. Pairing lower brain activity with positive relationships will gradually change the template the child has about relationships.
Make sure every child experiences many positive human connections throughout their day.
Incorporate these principles into therapy by having a rocking chair in the office, using art and music, walking while talking, and making sure the appointments are positive and fun. As the child feels safer and calmer, he or she will be more available for cognitive approaches.
Most importantly: take good care of staff. If a child is playing Dance, Dance Revolution and the staff is at the side of the room texting his friends on his cell phone, the child may be having fun but her templates about human relationships are not being changed. The template that people really don’t notice or care is being strengthened. Prioritize keeping staff happy, hopeful, engaged and energetic. The staff’s ability to offer warm, rewarding, joyful connections to the clients is ultimately the only tool we have.
Click here for a guide to rhythmic programming that offers specific suggestions for building brains throughout all parts of the day.
Let us know in the comments how you use rhythmic activities in your treatment.
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