Research

The idea of Safetystories is developed from the research on traumatreatment for children, that is going on around the world. It´s built on research, theories and methods developed by

  • Bessel van der Kolk, who has written the book ”The body keeps the score”, where he describes very well what happens in the brain and body when we experience trauma.
  • Stephen Porges, who has through his research given us knowledge about the social engagement system, and the importance of feeling safe to be able to process a traumatic event.
  • Daniel Siegel, Sue Gerhardt, James Coan, who have all studied the importance of safe attachment in between children and safe adults.
  • Michael White and many other narrative therapists, among them Margoth Sunderland who has developed methods to use narrative therapy with children and adults.
  • Linda Chapman, who has developed the Chapman Art Therapy Treatment Intervention (CATTI), a traumatherapy where the child draws pictures.
  • Pat Ogden, who has developed Sensorymotor Psychotherapy, to help release traumareactions that are stuck in the body.
  • Peggy Pace, who has developed Lifespan Integration, and Catherine Thorpe who has developed The Healing Timeline, which are both visualizing methods, where safe persons are brought into a traumatic memory. A timeline of events hat have happened afterwards is then read.
  • Peter Levine, who has studied the bodily reactions of adults and children who have been experienceing trauma, and developed Somatic Experiencing – a method to let the body tell the traumastory and let the traumaenergy be used up.

 

The summary of the research and work of the above mentioned professionals is that to process trauma, children need

  • to be close to adults they feel safe with.
  • to explore together with a safe person what happened, and to be able to do that in their own language, which is more of play, stories, images and movings, than the spoken language.
  • not to be forced to talk.
  • to get help and learn how to be grounded when trauma memories are overwhelming, by using the body, take in with all senses what is happening here and now, and listen to a story about what has happened after the event.
  • in the imagination invite a safe person/figure into the traumatic memory, someone who is there for the child, hears and sees the child, supports and protects the child. If safety is not brought into the traumastory the traumastory can easily retraumatize the child. If safety is brought in, the brain beleieves in the new story.
  • to integrate the trauma memory into the childs lifestory. This happens as the story is told and also by includes the story of what happened right before the traumatic event, and what has happened after the traumatic event. It´s good to add a list of at least about 15 memories of what has happened after the traumatic event, together with the phrase ”This is over!”.
  • to process the trauma in their bodies, as the trauma is stored in their bodies– the trauma energy that was bult up during the traumatic event needs to be released, which happens naturally by shaking and other bodyreactions, if the child feels safe, is not interrupted, and is affirmed that the bodyreactions are normal.
  • to finish the unfinished bodily movements, like rising an arm for protection – this can be done by imagening it happen or in roleplay. If this does not happen, pain and other problems might occur in that part of the body.
  • to be aware about what is going on in their bodies.
  • to hear the traumastory, with the new safety included, told back, in a safe way, and with the message: ”You did as best you could!” ”You shouldn´t have had to be part of this.” ”You did nothing wrong!” ”Your reactions were and are normal.” ”You are beuatiful, loveable, valuable.” ”There is a future.”
  • be aware about the losses that came with the traumatic event. The grieving process is different from the trauma processing, so it is good to take some time to focus on and grieve the losses.
  • express the ”act of triumph” – what the child wants to do herself or wants someoen else to do to regain the power, and develop strategies that can help in similar situations if it should happen again.

Ulrika Ernvik
safetystories.se