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Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All: Play Therapy with Traumatized Children

The following post is by SOE Faculty Affiliate Eric J. Green, who is presenting at the upcoming Play Therapy Institute. Click here to learn more about that exciting event.

“Dragons breathing flame on my counterpane, that doesn’t frighten me at all.” – Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

“Dragons breathing flame on my counterpane, that doesn’t frighten me at all.” – Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

School-based violence, community violence associated with gang activity, natural and human-made disasters, terrorism, and other forms of acute or chronic trauma affect a significant number of children every year (Green, 2012). Exposure to traumatic events during childhood often leads to maladjustment that disrupts the typical maturation process. These children display iterations of trauma-related symptoms including dysphoria, hyperarousal, extreme sensitivity, interpersonal discord, and ostensible changes in healthy eating and/or sleeping habits. Play therapy is a potentially beneficial mental health treatment modality for traumatized children that is (a) developmentally-sensitive; (b) facilitates emotional safety by utilizing less threatening forms of communication than the standard “talking cure,” (c) engenders positive self-worth through creative self-expression, (d) fosters self-efficacy in collaborative problem solving; and (e) derives healing from the nonjudgmental, therapeutic relationship.

For some children and adolescents, writing about aberrant thoughts and feelings surrounding a potentially traumatic experience and then depicting them symbolically through play-based media like sandplay and abstract artwork is less threatening than expressing the information verbally and may assist with integration. Prominent trauma researchers van der Kolk and d’Andrea (2010) state that simply talking about traumatic experiences does not necessarily assist the mind and brain to integrate the dissociated images and cognitions into a cohesive whole so healing may activate. Through creative play-based therapy sessions, like those that incorporate the coloring of mandalas, children and clinicians may engage in co-participating activities that further the child’s trust in others and increase the opportunities for post-traumatic integration to occur.

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Student Book Collecting Contest kicking off

If you love books and collecting, you might be interested in the Betty and Edgar Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest, run by the Sheridan Libraries here at JHU.

About the Contest:

The Betty and Edgar Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest recognizes the love of books and the delight in shaping a thoughtful and focused book collection. All undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a degree program at Johns Hopkins are eligible to enter. All entries are welcome except past winning collections. Continue Reading →


Video: “Here comes the Common Core” discussion at SOE

The School of Education recently held a discussion in its Shaping the Future series, titled “Here Comes the Common Core”.

Over 250 guests listened to presentations by Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lillian Lowery, Callie Riley of Achieve, Inc. and Maryland State Department of Education’s Dave Volrath on the new set of requirements with the Common Core. SOE Dean David Andrews also spoke briefly to open the event, which was emceed by Wes Moore. Continue Reading →