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Play Based Assessment
Nurture the Needs Groups
An initial parent consult might be what you’re looking for if…
-you have questions about whether or not a certain troubling behavior is developmentally appropriate or may benefit from treatment
-you have had a traumatic event or unexpected stressor in the family and need help making a plan for moving forward in a way that best supports your child
-you have questions about how to talk to the kids about major transitions such as separation, divorce, a parent’s sudden absence due to a substance abuse problem or recovery process,
-you have questions about how to help your child socially
-you wonder if you have done irreparable damage to your relationship with your child through your own reactivity but have been too embarrassed to seek help
A Nurture House clincian will listen to your concerns, ask a host of follow up questions and give feedback. In some cases this may be reassurance that your child is developmentally on target, going through a phase, or could benefit from some tweaking of your parenting approach. In other cases, the clinician may recommend further assessment and/or treatment.
At Nurture House, we often start the helping process with dyadic assessments. A parent and child come together and engage in a series of tasks that help us to see where the building blocks of connection (nurture, structure, engagement, and challenge) need to be supported and/or expanded. We will then see the child on his or her own for one to three sessions, building rapport with the child through play. Art, sand, and play materials will be used to explore the emotional lives of our child clients, perceptions of the family system and their perceptions of where change may be needed. After these sessions we will meet with parents in order to give them feedback on what we have observed clinically and to help craft a course of treatment.
“A child’s play is his talk and toys are his words.”- Ginott
Play is the natural language of children. When they are given an environment that is filled with the things of childhood, namely toys, their anxiety and resistance to change decreases and their openness to learning new skills and/or practicing new coping increases as their overall sense of mastery is encouraged. The mediums of sand, art, clay, toys, and other playful equipment are the tools of the play therapist’s trade and you will see these in every room of Nurture House.
“You can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation.-Plato”
Play based assessment allows for clinicians to see how the child copes with new situations, how they perceive their families, their problems and the world at large. New skill sets-are all more likely to be rehearsed through the play-based activities and can be supported by the playful engagement of the parent.
Skill sets that can be enhanced by play therapy include:
Positive Coping skills
Cognitive Restructuring/Positive Self-Talk
Boss Back Skills for Anxiety Management
Anger and Stress Management Skills
Play and expressive therapies can be used to resolve trauma, build coherent narrative, teach and practice new skills, enhance emotional regulation, decrease anxiety and enhance attachments.
Attempts to confront the traumatic events in a child’s life through strictly verbal processing can leave layers of trauma experience untouched and festering. Play therapy combines kinesthetic involvement with the story of what happened to integrate the thoughts, feelings and somatic reactions with the verbal narrative to leach the emotional toxicity out of the event so that it can become part of the child’s history without being overwhelming every time it is remembered.
Our bedrock belief
Even when integrating treatment approaches such as Trauma Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, or Exposure/Response Prevention work, we deliver all of these through the developmentally sensitive modalities of play and expressive therapies.
Nurture House staff love working with adolescents. We consider it a privilege to walk with them through the tender years in which they balance precariously on the tightrope between childhood and adulthood. We explore and honor the early wounds that may contribute to the current problems while walking them toward accountability, responsibility, and self care. Teens face such a host of challenges today, the greatest of which is finding their voice. Nurture House regularly walks families through situations involving drug and alcohol abuse, self-injurious behavior, and/or suicidal ideation. It is such a joy when we see an adolescent coming out the other side and it is our deep and abiding belief that when given the right level of supportive care and nurturing intervention, they can and they will.
Here at Nurture House, we love working with adoptive families. We delight in helping parents and children learn to delight in each other. Sometimes this involves live coaching of parents with their children, sometimes it involves helping parents and children participate in fun activities that enhance the attachment bond, and sometimes it requires the delicate work of helping a parent hold a child’s pain, reflect the child’s narratives of his/her early life, and help them co-create a new family identity/story together. Sometimes we simply “hold” the parent as the parent “holds” the child. For all families, we create spaces where both parents and children are able to have a voice, take greater risks, hear each other more clearly, and become more vulnerable in their communications with each other in the work of attachment repair.
Even the most reasonable parents are under an incredible amount of stress during a separation or divorce. Conversations between parents can become volatile quickly, even when they are simply trying to communicate about the children’s needs or make decisions related to school, extracurricular activities or when/how to introduce their kids to new romantic partners. Having a safe place and a safe person to mediate discussions can be helpful. At Nurture House, we will encourage each parent to have a voice in the decision-making process while helping parents remain aware of themselves and communicate in ways that are most effective for collaboration and joint decision-making. In order for co-parent work to be safe for all involved, the ground rules laid in the first co-parent session must be adhered to by both parties or the therapist may ask one parent to leave or end the session early. In such an event, the full fee for the session is still required.
This group, a six-week psychoeducation and support group for adoptive parents, will offer a holistic paradigm for helping children heal. Many adoptive children have difficulty with self-regulation and self-soothing. Out of this difficulty can come behaviors that are hard to handle. Understanding the neurophysiology of these children, their stress response systems and their “windows of tolerance” set the stage for understanding the most helpful ways of connecting with a child from a hard beginning.
As parents, it helps to have a comprehensive toolkit of parenting strategies that includes co-regulation skills in addition to traditional behavior management practices. The goals of the group are twofold: to help parents be better equipped to meet the needs underneath their adopted child’s behaviors and to build a community of support with other parents. In addition to being offered at Nurture House, this group can be taken into a school setting and offered within churches or other community organizations who are trying to partner with and support adoptive families. Contact Nurture House for more details.
Continuing Education: A leader in the fields of developmentally sensitive trauma treatment and play therapy, Paris Goodyear-Brown offers a rich variety of workshop training options to other mental health professionals, child service workers, teachers and daycare workers, and other helping professionals. For training topics, upcoming workshop dates and feedback from past participants, click here.
Nurture House offers a variety of group experiences, within school programs and at Nurture House, for children who need help with self-regulation and social skill development. In these groups, nurturing activities are the vehicle through which children practice pro-social interaction.
Nurture House partners will be partnering with several other agencies in town to provide a second year of camp. The camp will run for two weeks, Tuesday-Friday, June 2nd-5th and June 9th-12th. Families with adopted children (five to 9 years old) who struggle with dysregulation (aggression, defiance, non-compliance, sensory defensive or sensory seeking behavior, anxiety). Each camper will be assigned a buddy and a back-up buddy who have been trained in how to delight in the children at all times while expanding their abilities to connect and regulate. Applications can be requested by calling Miriam’s Promise at [coming soon].
At Nurture House, we understand how isolating and stressful it can be to have a child who is out of control in the home environment. The place that you hope will provide you the most peace, your home, can often a place that feels chaotic, overwhelming, and even scary. Nurture House staff are available to provide in-home programs that include assessment, intervention strategies and hands on modeling of the discipline methods that help you better connect with your child while building your child’s brain towards empathy and regulation. This in-home work requires extra allocation of time and resources for Nurture House helpers and involves additional fees for families. Please contact Nurture House to see if you are eligible.