“How do you help a 5 year old girl who has been repeatedly beaten and abused by her father?”
With the majority of community welfare resources for young people in Australia aimed at the 12-18 age bracket, we knew that something had to be done to help our youngest and most vulnerable Queenslanders.
When a young child has experienced abuse, it becomes incredibly difficult to build a counselling relationship. Why SHOULD they trust the counsellor, when the only adults they have ever known abused their trust? They’re terrified of saying the wrong thing, and have often been threatened and scared into silence.
If this didn’t present enough of a challenge, often the pain and trauma experienced by abused children is so great, that it becomes incredibly difficult for them to face their feelings and experiences.
Thankfully – we found the solution. Talking through Toys.
The brainchild of Charles Wheeler, developed with some assistance from experts in child psychology, Talking through Toys combines established play therapy methods, with our not-so-secret weapon….
Our enormous stuffed teddy bears…and the results took our breath away. Children who were non-responsive to other forms of therapy, showing signs of improvement. Others, who refused to speak a word, tentatively sharing information with the help of the bears.
In a counselling session – the child can hide behind one of a number of huge teddy bears while the counsellor addresses his/her conversation to the bear. The child is then invited to respond as the bear, removing many anxieties which often leave them feeling vulnerable.
Essentially, our bears help a child to feel safe, and for a young person who has been abused, that is half the battle won.
By role playing different scenarios using the bears as well as other toys, children can also play out their experiences and gain insight into their own feelings. With the counsellor asking such things as “I wonder why that dog is sitting away from the other animals?” or “I wonder what he might be feeling at the moment?” techniques such as reframing can be used to help the child to see the world from different perspectives. The children can actually move the toys around and practice new and alternative behaviours to ‘see how it feels’ and to imagine what it might be like if they did that in real life.
Talking through Toys’ is a gentle yet powerful way for young children to express themselves and receive the help they need in a comforting and safe environment.
Talking through Toys receives no government funding, and relies on donations from members of the public. Counselling is provided 100% free of charge to the children of families who cannot afford to get them the help that they need. Unlike other organizations, SCWQ places no limit on the number of sessions offered to an individual child, with the understanding that complex cases take time, and that for these vulnerable children, the constancy and ongoing support is crucial to their successful recovery.