Weaving practical, hands-on ideas with theory and research about child development, child treatment, and the therapeutic relationship, this book describes an innovative approach to treatment of children and adolescents who won’t or can’t respond to traditional, conversation-based therapy. Within an interpersonal and developmental framework, Martha Straus spells out the deceptively simple goals of no-talk therapy: someone to be close to, and something to be proud of.
As Straus demonstrates in her case examples, no-talk children fit many diagnostic pictures. Many start out hesitant about the whole enterprise of therapy, and a few remain intractably detached despite the therapist’s best efforts to engage them. For some, the interpersonal requirements of problem-talk or play therapy are well beyond their developmental level. Others may have an abundance of talking and playing skills and be determined not to use them. Most have had lives that are unspeakably hard. Ironically, traditional therapy, with its most fundamental purpose of helping children feel better, is painfully uncomfortable for no-talk children and adolescents.
For these children, therapists need an entirely new clinical language, one that doesn’t depend on words.Through empathy and respect, games, activities, community involvement, a circle of adults, and little pleasures, this approach emphasizes individual connection, competence, and creativity. Going beyond other methods, no-talk therapy begins to provide these anxious, sullen, enraged, and confused kids with the self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness to develop a voice of their own.
Straus opens for readers a huge grab bag of gimmicks, gadgets, and games, from which to draw resources appropriate to every no-talk occasion. Most of all, she offers herself as an engaged, creative, fallible, caring therapist who hears the pain—and the strengths—in the silence.