Safety building

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In the early stages of the work, the therapist builds a therapeutic alliance with the dyad. An important step in this process is creating a sense of safety.

With adults, the therapist might seek to reduce or contain feelings of exposure, anxiety, guilt or shame. Clarity about the adults’ role in the sessions may help contain parents anxiety.

With the child, the easiest route to safety may be having the child’s safe-person or primary caregiver in the room with them so they can provide a safe haven at difficult times.

In addition to having the carer present, there are other things the therapist can do to build a sense of safety for the child. One of these is to link up with the wider system, alerting other key adults if the child is having a difficult time in therapy.

The therapist ensures that they do not break the child’s confidentiality, but do let people know if there are times when the child might require additional support.

Pace and timing can also contribute to safety building. The therapist allows enough time to build up a trusting relationship with the child.

Early sessions might be more structured to begin with to minimise the anxiety non-directive therapy can sometimes provoke. The therapist may choose non-threatening activities such as playing games or celebrating the child’s strengths.

Some psycho-education early on with the child may be helpful to explain and normalise how they might feel in sessions if difficult feelings come up or traumatic past events are discussed.

Related goal

This step is related to achieving the goal engaging with the dyad.