Stick-Lets: Fun with Nature

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Stick-Lets: Fun with Nature

Forts come to mind. But I also see obstacle courses, sculptures, and toys of the imagination. I see children finding their way to their inner selves, a place of creativity and calm. I also see them working together to create bigger and more elaborate constructions as they navigate sharing and cooperation.stick lets

Stick-lets are a tool that sparks this creative leap. Made of heavy silicone, they are virtually indestructible and certainly twistable, allowing little fingers to manipulate them into providing the connections that turn sticks into forts. The other night my therapy staff and I played with Christina Kazakia, creator of these genius devices.

Here are some ways that we considered their use in our therapy with children:
Make a construction together and have them each find a unique way to move through or around it (Betsy-Dance/Movement Therapist)
Make a construction and have them find and name shapes and letters (Stefanie-Speech/Language Therapy)
Have a child create a small, cozy space that helps them to feel safe when they are overwhelmed (Kathryn-Art Therapist)
Have kids in a group make an element alone then come together to join them into one sculptural piece (Kristen-Art Therapist)
Create catapults and moving levers and such to experiment with (Holly-Play Therapist)

stick lets 2Of course, Christina herself had lots of ideas and things to share from kids and families that she has met as she takes her little tools on the road to get people interacting with nature. She reminded us that so often, the parents look a bit confused as to what to do, but the kids know!

And they leap into action for hours on end. Watching them, the parents turn their curiosity to their child and embrace the unbridled energy of the creative process.

Expanded Speech/Language Services

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Expanded Speech/Language Services

At Parent to Child, there are several Speech/Language Pathologists that provide an array of services for both children and adults. We offer the opportunity receive a thorough speech and language assessment which can include a classroom observation, a home observation and formal testing of your a child’s speech/language skills, depending on the concerns. These skills include articulation/speech sound development, language skills (how a child understands and uses language to communicate), fluency (stuttering), pragmatic skills as well as feeding/swallowing. We also provide a variety of service delivery models. Children can participate in individual therapy or group at our facility, or individual therapy at school or at home, depending on the distance from center city. Therapy includes individualized plans based on an assessment done by Parent to Child, an outside assessment by another speech/language pathologist, or goals/plans set out in an Individualized Education Plan devised by a school district. We consistently work together with other providers your child might interact with including their teachers, babysitters/care providers and other therapists. We believe in a collaborative, interactive approach to speech and language therapy.

Our therapists also have experience with assessing and providing treatment for adults with speech/language disorders or those wishing to improve their speech/language skills.

We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you about tailoring a speech/language assessment or treatment plan for any member of the family or to answer questions regarding our scope of practice.

What is Play Therapy?

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What is Play Therapy?

Play Therapy is a form of counseling designed to meet the unique needs of children between the ages of three to ten. Anyone who asks a child “How do you feel?” or “Why did you do that?” will soon learn that children have difficulty verbalizing their feelings, motivations, and experiences. Children are not yet developmentally able to communicate at this advanced level. Play Therapy, therefore, uses children’s natural “language” – play – to help them express themselves in a way that feels natural and nonthreatening.

In Play Therapy, children are given a safe, caring environment and a variety of materials which encourage self-expression. These items can include toys, art materials, sand trays, and puppets. With the aid of a trained therapist, children are able to communicate, process, and heal from a variety of emotional stressors. Areas of treatment include:
• Anger/Aggression
• Grief/Loss
• Trauma
• Parental divorce
• Attachment difficulties
• Sibling rivalry
• Adjustment
• Depression
• Anxiety

Play therapy provides children with the opportunity to express themselves while simultaneously developing a greater sense of self-control. Parents can help in this process by working with the therapist to understand their child’s unique world experience, and by providing unconditional love and support. When children are able to verbalize and work through emotional stressors in this manner, negative feelings and problematic behaviors decrease.

Beth Richey
Play Therapist

Post Parenting Class Thoughts

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post Parenting Class Thoughts

After the recent Tuesday evening parenting class, I noticed that upon wrapping up, I felt good; I felt energized. I had just spent close to two hours speaking and answering questions. This was after a full day of caring for my four year old, it was close to 9:30pm, I still needed to bike home, and yet I felt great. I realized for the first time that this is how I typically feel after leading workshops, and it got me thinking about what causes this.

As much as I love discussing what I’ve learned over the years about children, parenting, and relationships, it’s not simply the act of sharing the information that excites me. What gets me time after time is seeing parents’ reactions to the information and to each other.

This is how it usually goes: I begin talking about what makes children tick, and to really get into it I throw out an example, maybe it’s about that struggle to get our young child to put her coat on to leave or the one with our older child to get out of bed in the morning or stay focused on his homework until it is finished. Or maybe it’s about our sensitive child who seems to melt down at the drop of a hat, or our two children who can’t stop picking at each other. While the examples are limitless, there are only a handful of ways that scenarios like these end, and as I discuss them–and describe the struggle and frustration that goes on inside us in those difficult moments–inevitably heads start to nod, and as the participants see each other’s heads nodding, the smiles start coming.

This is the moment we realize that we are not the only ones, and that our children are not little sociopaths in the making, and suddenly the energy picks up as we collectively exhale. As I go on to take what all of us already know about parenting and incorporate it into a coherent, sustainable approach to our relationships with our children, parents come away excited to put the information to use and with the confidence to adjust their attempts to maximize success and meet their child’s changing needs.

It’s an important, invigorating process that never fails to inspire.

Alex Hoedeman-Eiteljorg
Therapist and Family Educator

Mindfulness Improves Creativity!

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mindfulness Improves Creativity!

dylanwithposterI recently attended the International Neuropsychological Society’s (INS) annual conference in Waikoloa, Hawaii. Hawaii was, of course, absolutely wonderful, and the conference was engaging and educational. Being that I am interested in a career in art therapy, and not neuropsychology, I was a little overwhelmed by all the brain terminology being thrown around, but I attended several talks and found many posters relevant to my interests.

One poster that I found particularly intriguing explored the effects of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on creativity (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Creativity, L. Acosta et al.). They enrolled nine healthy participants in an eight-week MBSR course, which focuses on mindfulness meditation, gentle yoga and relaxation techniques. These practices allow the mind and body to deal with stress, pain and illness in new ways by promoting awareness and acceptance. They administered pre- and post-tests of a neuropsychology battery, including the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), which assesses both verbal and figural creativity. Verbal creativity is often measured through divergent thinking tasks, which measure a person’s ability to generate multiple solutions to a single question or problem. A common example of this is the unusual uses task. The participant is given an object, such as a brick, and asked to think of as many uses as they can for that object. Those people who can generate either more overall or more original, unique responses are considered more verbally creative. Figural creativity, on the other hand, is determined based on tests that actually involve drawing. A common example of a figural creativity test, which is included in the TTCT, is the incomplete figures task. Participants are given 6 different stimulus figures and asked to draw a novel design or image by adding as many lines as they can to the figures. Those people who can generate more elaborate, original designs are considered more figurally creative.

Acosta et al. found that engaging in MBSR seemed to improve verbal creativity, meaning that participants were able to verbally generate significantly more ideas on a divergent thinking task. So on the unusual uses task, if pre-MBSR, a person could only think of 5 uses for a brick, after the MBSR, they may be able to think of 15 uses, including more original ideas, such as using the brick to balance a scale or sand a piece of wood. The researchers acknowledge that they do not know the mechanism behind this improvement, but this finding opens the door to future research in this area. While this research offers empirical evidence, it makes sense to me that practicing mindfulness might enhance creative thinking because in reducing stress and quieting the mind, we reduce distracting thoughts. With the mind less distracted, we are able to focus more of our energy and attention resources on generating creative and novel solutions that we may not have thought of when we were overly stressed.

In the creative therapies, clients benefit from allowing their own creativity to flourish. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction focuses on alleviating pain and stress and improving both physical and emotion well-being. The goals and benefits of these treatments seem noticeably similar. It certainly seems possible that incorporating some form of mindfulness training or stress reduction might enhance the positive outcomes of creative therapies, especially in light of the above finding. By integrating MBSR into a creative therapy treatment, we may be able to unlock creativity in those who struggle to find it on their own and increase the benefits experienced from exploring one’s creative expression.

Dylan Ottemiller
Intern; Psychology Honors Program Student at Temple University

Building Books – Exploring Identity

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Building Books – Exploring Identity

Despite the slippery road conditions from the overnight snowfall, The Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association’s annual conference was on. The topic was Art, Creativity, and the Search for Identity: Creativity and Selfhood. Sounds great! Search for identity…

The topic of identity comes up often in the field of art therapy. I notice the word in the titles of journal articles and book chapters, in the research questions of our theses, and in the titles of conferences and workshops. The word sparks interest and feels meaningful. How do we understand identity? How do we address the multifaceted and complex topic of identity in the work we do with others? When we talk about identity are we talking about our personas; the person we present to the world, or are we talking about the sense of self and the way we feel inside? I think we are talking about all of it.

DVATA logoI attended a lecture and a workshop at the DVATA conference that addressed identity inside and out, presented by Jessica Drass, MA. She also offered an art intervention that could be used to explore and support the individual’s sense of self.

Ms. Drass’ workshop focused on the use of self-books as a way to explore identity for clients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). As presented, self-books are paper books, made and embellished by individuals, often over time, that reflect the self-exploration of the person creating the piece. Ms. Drass addressed the challenges that often arise in individuals with BPD relating to low self-esteem, negative self–conceptions, and unstable identity. She proposed the creation of self-books as a therapeutic intervention to address some of these difficulties. Ms. Drass presented a simple construction called an accordion fold book and suggested the use of collage and various drawing materials to embellish the book. She shared that the guiding questions for her clients are, “Who do you present to the world?” and “What story do you have to tell?” accordion book image

The use of self-books has a broader application beyond those suffering with BPD. As Jessica presented and many attending surmised, identity is important to everyone; for therapist and for the individuals we support.

Jessica highlighted that the book format acts as a metaphor for the self with an exterior and an interior. With this metaphor then we can explore our persona and the parts of us that lay deep down inside. The book could be kept closed or offer it to someone to read.

I see some opportunities to introduce this creative process with the clients I work with. For individuals, the making of a self-book has the potential to provide them with an opportunity to learn more about him or herself. It also seems that for the client, creating a tangible form of identity could be experienced as reinforcing and validating, as it solidifies and concertizes the unique and individual experience of who they are.

From the perspective of working in groups, the creation of self-books may allow for a chance to share themselves with others. The process may highlight opportunities for connection among group members to find common interests and experiences, providing an opportunity for individuals to form strong and meaningful connections.

Jewelie Sluzas
Art Psychotherapist

A Pizza with a Purpose

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Pizza with a Purpose

A former professor of mine suggested I read the textbook, Creativity: Theories and Themes: Research, Development, and Practice by Mark A Runco. The book explores the history of creative theories and theorists. In a way, it is like a “creativity” encyclopedia. The book explores the idea that mindfulness and creativity are related to flexibility and discusses the concept of divergent thinking – a way of seeing multiple solutions to a problem. It also states that creative thinking can help with problem solving.

Flexibility, divergent thinking, and problem solving are all important concepts in the practice of creative arts therapies. A few months ago, I led a music therapy group with children on the autism spectrum. There were 6 kids, all in either first, second or third grade. One child sat outside of the circle and did not want to participate. I had seen this group before and it had always been difficult to encourage this child to join in. On this particular day, the rest of the group had just finished playing a song together and the child said, “I like pizza.” I heard what he said and thought maybe, if I made up a spontaneous song about liking pizza, he might join the group. So, I did just that. He participated in the entire song with an increase in eye contact and interest. In a sense, I was able to think “divergently” to solve the problem of his non-participation. The song included other foods that other members of the group liked as well, so we ended up with full group participation for the song. This example shows not only the use of divergent thinking in a music therapy group, but also the psycho-social benefits of doing so. In this case, thinking divergently allowed me to create a situation in which each child could participate and feel important, along with providing a way for a distracted child to increase his focus.

Making spontaneous songs is one method I use in my creative music making groups here at Parent To Child and Therapy Associates. I find that spontaneous songs have several benefits: 1) Increase the therapist’s ability to think divergently, 2) Encourage creative responses from the children, and 3) Introduce parents and caregivers to a method of problem solving that might help utilize their divergent thinking, while also potentially modifying their child’s behavior in a positive way.

Sharon Hoffberg
Music Therapist

Recess Matters

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Recess Matters

Last week on WHYY’s Radio Times, there was a show devoted to the topic of recess; the importance of regular opportunities for kids to engage in unstructured play and the trend towards schools getting rid of or decreasing recess offerings for their students. Guests on the show were Catherine Ramstetter, one of the authors of a policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in December 2012 titled “The Crucial Role of Recess in School,” and Anna Beresin, University of the Arts professor and founder of Recess Access, whose play research is documented in her book “Recess Battles.”

Ramstetter and Beresin are both proponents of allowing kids the opportunity during the school day to play freely and be creative. Ramstetter focuses on the educational, physical, and social benefits of recess, arguing that taking a break from cognitive tasks energizes kids to refocus and increase academic performance, the physical activity of recess play combats obesity, and the nature of unstructured play allows an environment that fosters development of social skills such as negotiation, problem solving, and sharing. Beresin uses her extensive observations of children during recess along with literary research to emphasize the emotional and psychological benefits of children having the freedom of expression through play and creativity during recess. She argues that children make sense of the world around them through free play, and that “children do not express their deepest fears, concerns, confusions about the world around them through words, they do so through their bodies and through play.” When asked during the Radio Times interview why she is such an enthusiast for unstructured play, Beresin answered:

Anyone who ever spends time with kids can see the immediate complexity and passion that emerges in children’s play. And it’s something you see from very young babies, you see it in kittens and puppies, and you see it all the way through adolescents…There used to be a saying that the opposite of play is work, but we now know that the opposite of play is not work, it is depression. And when children don’t play they often become very very sick, either physically or emotionally.

Here at Parent to Child and Therapy Associates, we were glad to come across this radio show and learn about some of the research and resources advocating for children to have access to recess; to have access to regular opportunities for unstructured play, creativity, expression through movement and games, developing friendships, and the space to develop social skills. Our model of child-focused creative and play therapies is offered as a way to provide a safe space for children to access much of these same creative energies to allow for expression of thoughts and feelings and making sense of their worlds to promote growth and psychological health. Our social skills groups also allow for a balance of structured and unstructured creative expression, play, games, and learning, to focus on supporting kids of all ages in developing and practicing social thinking skills.

Kristen Rashid
Art Psychotherapist

Greenbaum, S., Tu, A., Lissek, D. (Producers). (2013, January 7). Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane: What’s Happened to Recess? Retrieved from

Book Review of “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite”

Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in Book Review | Comments Off on Book Review of “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite”

Author: David DiSalvo
2011 Prometheus Books

With chapters entitled: Certainty and the Seduction of Chance; Motivation, Restraint, and Regret; and Nothing So Pure As Action, this book lays out amusing anecdotes about the way our brain works…or doesn’t work…for our benefit.

Citing large numbers of research studies, DiSalvo has certainly done his homework in researching the latest information in cognitive neuroscience. For instance, what would you do if a friend, or your boss, asks you to assist on a large project with them 6 months in the future? You’re quite busy now and so you think, “Things will be less chaotic in 6 months.” A Happy Brain wants to say “Yes” right now to receive the immediate reward of feeling generous with your friend or your boss. But in 6 months, you are still just as busy as you are, now. Plus, you have the added work of assisting your friend or boss that you committed to 6 months ago. DiSalvo underscores various examples and studies of why we need to pause before we rely on “Our first thoughts.”

The final chapter sums up knowledge learned from mountains of psychological research to truly keep your brain happy instead of overwhelmed. Some examples are surprising and all are insightful e.g. Slow Down, Be Aware of the influence that your pre-existing beliefs exert on your current thinking, Become Savvy about Framing (the way you see yourself), Engage Others to help keep you accountable to your commitments. He lists 50 recommendations for keeping your brain flexible and therefore keeping your behaviors in line with your values. DiSalvo, who must read a book a day, also lists dozens of books, magazines, websites, and blogs to follow any possible interest in current neuroscience trends. I recommend this book for the curious reader who wants to learn more about gray matter and the way our brains play puppeteer with the rest of our bodies.

Carol Blum
Couple and Family Therapist

She Finally Spoke

Posted by on Jun 20, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on She Finally Spoke

Not long ago, I experienced one of the most rewarding moments a therapist hopes for in speech/language therapy. I recently started working with a little girl, Sally* who is 19 months old. Her family is concerned about her expressive language – she’s only using single syllable “words,” consisting of “d” “m” or “b,” and it’s often the same “word” for a plethora of different words, so it’s often difficult to figure out what she is trying to say. For one of our sessions, Sally and I had quite an audience- Mom, Dad, Nanny, and Grandmom (visiting from out of town). Sally certainly could have become camera-shy, but boy did she perform! We used her rocking horse as part of our therapy session – I always try to incorporate items that can be used when I’m not present! I rocked back and forth next to Sally and modeled, “rocking” a two syllable word, with “r” which is the MOST difficult sound for children to achieve. Sally smiled, giggled, and then as she was rocking, she said, “ra-kee!” Our audience smiled and applauded for Sally. She quickly realized saying this word was a special way to connect with her listeners.

Not every therapy session has break-through moments like this one, but it happens quite frequently, especially with the very young clients. I find that parents often become frustrated when their child has a receptive/expressive language delay and feel they can’t understand or communicate with their child. What’s worse is, they feel like their hands are tied because they can’t figure out the strategies that work. In many instances, my work with children between a year and a half and four years of age is parent training on how to elicit new words and communicative acts with their children. Every child certainly has something to say – it’s a team based approach to figure out how to get them to be able to say it!

Stefanie Odett
Speech Language Pathologist

*name changed for confidentiality purposes