Janae B. Weinhold
Help for children with high-risk behaviors has emerged during the past twenty-five years. Play therapy is a very popular and effective clinical tool that helps the children heal developmental trauma through dramatic play activities. Other experiential therapies for children include sand tray therapy, which uses a small sand box and miniature figures for dramatic expression; art therapy, and theater.

Therapeutic Help for Children with High-Risk Behaviors

There are other therapeutic approaches that are designed for children who exhibit more severe high-risk behaviors. These therapies typically include opportunities for discharging feelings of anger and aggression and work well with children who are oppositional and defiant with adults.

Known as holding therapies, they may involve restraining holding, nurturing holding and holding without holding. They help parents reestablish their authority with children through repetitive, consistent limit setting activities when a child is acting defiant or oppositional. Holding therapies have become controversial recently, mostly because they are used by therapists who are poorly trained in the modality. The lack of high-level therapist trainings and ongoing supervision for holding therapists has created unsafe conditions for both the therapists and the children they are trying to help.

The most common form of therapy for children, however, is play. Through play, children reenact both the happy and hurtful events of their lives. It provides them with opportunities to express their feelings and to gain internal control over them. Observing children at play is an effective way to learn more about their internal worlds and the problems with which they may be struggling.

Here elements of trauma will be visible in their interactions with other children and with their toys. When children have been abused, however, this play can quickly turn into traumatic reenactment and create an unsafe environment.

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