My Helpers and Protectors: Therapeutic cards that work with the self-protective system of children affected by trauma
These therapeutic cards are for mental health practitioners working with children and young adolescents affected by trauma and adversity. They depict multiple trauma-generated forms of self-protection, adaptations, and defenses. Often, these defensive behaviors can create stagnation in the therapeutic process. These 42 double-sided cards and the 23-page booklet with therapist instructions were designed to support children and adolescents in accessing, embracing, and working through trauma-related adaptations and developing relationships with these essential parts of themselves. These cards use animals to explain, normalize, and validate the child’s survival attempts. Underneath defensive parts are emotions, somatic responses, and needs, and underneath, the wound they protect.
These cards should be part of a comprehensive, cohesive treatment where clinicians work on restoring safety at multiple levels (which quiets down the defensive and self-protective system). If the child is in unsafe, chaotic, rigid, and traumatizing environments, naturally and organically, their defense system will be in a state of activation, so safety must be restored first before using these cards. These cards should also be accompanied by work around increasing the child’s homeostatic repertoire and co-regulation with important attachment figures. These cards are used within a deshaming and depathologizing approach. Once the child plays with the cards, they can be invited to create a poster, puppet show, a sandtray world, and embodiments depicting their protectors.