I Don’t Fix Kids

The following is a summary of what I have told parents about the kind of work I do. Ithinkitishelpfulforteachersandtherapistsaswell.

~Violet Oaklander, PhD

I usually ask parents in our first session together, “What are you wanting by coming here?” (or something to that effect). The response is generally something like, “I want her to start doing her homework” or “I want him to stop having tantrums” or “I want her to stop being so sensitive” or (substitute any of the variety of symptoms or behaviors that bring children into therapy).

My response is, “I need to tell you that I don’t fix kids.” At this point I have the parents’ full attention.

“But let me tell you what I DO do.”

l. One thing I do is help your child feel better about herself–to feel stronger inside and have a clear sense of herself.

Another thing I do is try to help your child feel happier, more peaceful in life, and to make better contact with his environment and the people in his life.

I work toward helping your child express deep feelings, particularly anger, in safe, appropriate ways.

Some of these feelings may be old, buried ones that create problems when held inside for a long time. I also want to give your child skills for expressing feelings, that come up in everyday situations, in healthy, non-­‐hurtful ways.

Sometimes I need to give your child experiences with aspects of himself or herself that he or she has cut off, restricted, blocked. When children are inhibited in this way, they tend to veer off their healthy path of growth. My job is to help them get back to this path.

I will work with you to help you set clear limits for your child. These consistent, fair limits are important for your child to find his or her own boundary of self.

We often use many tools to achieve these goals geared to your child’s interest and developmental stage. These creative and expressive techniques include graphic arts, clay, sand scenes, puppets, music, creative dramatics, and various games.

As we do these things, very often the behaviors and symptoms that worry you, that seem to need fixing, melt away, disappear. And if they don’t, we, you and I, will need to look hard and fast at what we are doing, or not doing, to perpetuate these behaviors and symptoms.

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Violet Oaklander, PhD.

Violet Oaklander was the author of the books Windows to Our Children: a Gestalt Therapy Approach to Children and Adolescents (now in 17 languages), and Hidden Treasure: A Map to the Child’s Inner Self (now in 7 languages), as well as several journal articles, book chapters, and audio and video recordings on psychotherapeutic work with children. She earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, a Master of Arts in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, a Master of Science in Special Education with emotionally disturbed children, and is a certified Gestalt Therapist.

Dr. Oaklander’s unique approach to working with children, which combines Gestalt Therapy theory, philosophy, and practice with a variety of expressive techniques, has won international recognition. She recieved a lifetime achievement award from the Association of Play Therapy, U.S. as well as numerous other awards for her contribution to the mental health field. In February of 2012 she was honored and awarded by the Edna Reiss-Sophie Greenberg Chair at the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Oaklander traveled extensively in the United States as well as throughout the world giving training seminars on her approach to working with children and adolescent. For 27 years she conducted a highly successful two-week training program drawing people to California from all over the world. In addition, she was a regular instructor for many years with the extension programs of the University of California campuses in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Diego, and the Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Dr. Oaklander grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lived in Miami; New York City; Denver; Albany; and Long Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Santa Barbara, California. After 21 years in Santa Barbara, Dr. Oaklander moved to Los Angeles to live near her son and daughter-in-law in her retirement. She was married for 26 years to Harold Oaklander, a licensed social worker and Gestalt therapist (deceased). Together, they had three children: Mha Atma S. Khalsa (Arthur), Michael (deceased), and Sara.