curative language

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #1

Goal: To develop the child’s awareness of his/her own behavior.
On a higher level: To learn to self intervene and alter his/her own behavior.

Tracking is noticing what the child is doing in his or her play and reporting those observations back to the child.

TRACK behavior such as:
What he/she is doing with the toy(s), in play, with his/her body.
The manner in which he/she is playing.
How he/she does what he/she is doing.
What verbalizations he/she makes.
How the body language is.

Language that will help you TRACK behavior includes:
“Right now you…”
“I notice…”
“You are…”
“You are pretending to…”
“I see that…”

Do make brief and concise comments that help the child understand their intent and purpose in play.
However, do not offer a play-by-play description.
Keep the observations open ended so the child can disagree.
Use pronouns to generalize “You put that in there.” This allows the child to remain in metaphor, naming the objects him/herself
and allows you to follow his/her lead as the child identifies/names objects.


CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #2

Goals: To develop self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-understanding.
REFLECTING is putting back to the child what he/she is thinking and feeling underneath the play behavior.

What he/she is thinking.
What his/her thinking process is.
What he/she is feeling.
What his/her inner state is.
What his/her verbalization mean.
What his/her body language is expressing.

Language that will help you REFLECT includes:
“It looks like…” “I think you…”
“You think…..” “You feel…”
“You are thinking about it.” “You look sad because…”
“You are sad.” “I heard you…”
“It sounds like…” “It seems…”
“It feels like…”

Listen, observe, and intuit.
This is very different from imitating or tracking. You are letting him/her know you sense what he/she is thinking and how he/she is feeling. Avoid trying to cheer your child up, make their feelings go away, making them wrong for having feelings, asking them to defend or explain their feelings, or otherwise trying to fix. These responses deny him or her the opportunity to work through feelings in a safe, emotionally supportive environment. This is how a child knows he/she is understood.
Use simple words and language.
Use statements of ten words or less.
Use an accepting tone of voice so the child knows he/she is safe to express whatever he/she is feeling within the context of the play.

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #3


Goals: To learn self-reliance and confidence.
To make decisions and learn to structure his/her own time.

Returning Responsibility is allowing the child to have responsibility about his/her own choices and behaviors during the ‘U ‘N’ ME Time’.

Language that will empower and help RETURN RESPONSIBILITY includes:
“You can decide.”
“Tell me what to do to help you.”
“That is something you can do.”
“You will find a way if you decide to.”

Do not do for the child what he/she can do for him/herself – it only weakens the child.
If something is important enough to the child he/she will find a way to persevere and get it done him/herself.

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #4


Goals: To feel capable and boost self-esteem.

Crediting the Effort is describing his/her effort.

Watch what the child does and describe it.
Notice a thinking process.
Observe a choice made.
Report on a behavior.
Point out each step (rather than just noticing the end product).

Language that will help you CREDIT THE EFFORT includes:
“I see you are thinking hard to figure out where that piece goes.”
“You thought a long time about that to make the right decision for you.”
“You are really working hard on that.”
“You used the whole paper.”
“You finished it all by yourself.”
“You like what you did.”
“You are proud of yourself.”
“You are doing it just how you want.”
“You made eye contact with me before you started talking.”
“You did it yourself!”
“We did it together!” (I put my hand over your hand, we turned together and it opened).
“You figured it out.”
“You figured out how to get that off and now you are working on the next one.”

Whenever possible give credit rather than praise. See attached handout on Praise v. Encouragement and excerpts of Alfie Kohn’s work.

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #5


Goals: To feel capable and able to make his/her own decisions.

Pacing is matching the child’s energy/following his/her pace, lead and tempo.

Respond loudly to loud, softly to soft.
Use “How” questions.

Language that will help you PACE includes:
If the child says “roar” – you inquire “How loud?”
If the child says “jump” – you ask “How high?”
“How is this?
If the child says “just do it however you want – you state, “Ok, but feel free to change it if you want.”

Do not out pace the child.
If the child is playing calmly, then react calmly.

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #6


Goals: To internalize and do for self. To increase independence, responsibility, self-reliance, resourcefulness and his/her ability to self-correct.


Language that will help you in GIVING CHOICES includes:
“Would you like ______ or ______?”
“You may have ______ or ______.”
“Select one of the three items I am holding.”
“Choose three.”

This is a simple form of limit setting, non-critical and non-evaluative.
It is more effective to let a child pull him/herself under control.
Choices must be appropriate with the child’s age, and with what he/she is able to do.
Keep your expectations or wishes out of the choices.
Be sure it is a choice you are willing to follow through with.
Stay in the moment.
Keep it simple.
Your demeanor is important so that the child will take responsibility for the choice and in turn you can be compassionate with his/her choice.
It is therapeutic to have a child live through his/her choice.
Whenever possible, focus on what he/she can have, rather than what he/she cannot.

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #7


Goals: To feel free to express him/herself.
To feel emotional safety and security.

Setting Limits

This 3 Step Process that will help you SET LIMITS (ALT):

A Acknowledge his/her feeling.
“I can tell you are angry.”

L Communicate the limit.
Invert the sentence structure – the object is put first, deliberately in order to give information while avoiding the familiar “Don’t” or nagging.
“I am not for hitting.”

T Target two acceptable alternatives
one for the object (I) and one for the verb (hitting)
“You can either:
talk with me (object) about what you are angry about
hit (verb) this pillow.”

Once again, your demeanor is crucial to setting a successful limit
Be matter-of-fact, compassionate, firm and kind.
Use a neutral tone
Enforce the limit to avoid potential manipulation.

CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Skill #8


Goals: To simply share observations, feelings and emotions.
To interact, meet and bond with the child where he/she is.
To remove the pressure off the child to perform and/or provide the right answer.

“I really like it when we go out to lunch together.”
“I like the way the water splashes when we throw rocks in the pond.”
“That was a really loud noise.”
“He got hurt when he fell.”
“I like when we clapped at the same time.”

“Today is my birthday.”
“I am going to do my best.”
“We won!”
“I want to play house.”
“That was a really good trick.”
“You made a colorful picture.”

“I bet the red car wins.”
“Today is Tuesday; I think it will be pizza for lunch.”
“I think Daddy is really going to like this!”
“The rabbit is not paying attention, so probably the turtle will win.”
“I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
“I wonder what will happen if we mix these two together.”
“I think that baby is crying because it is hungry.”

“Next year we can decorate eggs again.”
“When Mom comes in the door, we will say “surprise!”
“First we’ll put in the red, and then the blue and then we will see purple.”
“I’ll say, ready. You say, set and we’ll both say, go!”

“So, you don’t like it when I tickle you.”
“I meant, let’s go to the pool, not to school.”
“Are we going to do it together?”
“Did you say Sunday or Monday?”

“We did it!”
“We are awesome!”
“We make a great team!”

“You’ll get it next time.”
“Can I help you with that?”
“I don’t like to wake up early, either.”
“You can do it!”
“She is a really good softball player.”

“We are going to the party today.”
“You did a great job on your spelling test.”
“I would like some ice cream.”
“My favorite color is yellow.”

“I don’t like Blues Clues.”
“When I go on the swings it makes my tummy feel funny.”
“That book was hard to read.”
“It scares me when the dog barks.”

“What should we do next?”
“We could play dolls now.”
“Would you like to play with my ball?”
“Do you want to go throw rocks in the pond?”

“Hey, that one was too fast for me.”
“You forgot about me.”
“I would like a turn.”
“Sloooow down.”
“I can do it!”
“I am going to take a break.”

“Before I come inside, I will take off my shoes.”
“That’s so funny; I wonder what will happen next.”
“First we rode the bus, and then we went on the shuttle.”
“If the monster is in there, what should we do?”
“How could we surprise Daddy for his birthday?”

“Do you know what I think?”
“Why don’t we try that together?”
“Which one is your favorite?”
“What do you think about…?”

Declarative communication includes comments, announcements and predictions whereas imperative communication includes directives (commands), prompts, questions, and requests.
Our typical communication contains only 20% declarative communication
and 80% imperative communication.
Increasing declarative communication is a curative factor skill meant to simply share observations, feelings and emotions whereas imperatives are statements made when a definite response is in mind. It is not a declarative if you already know the answer.
Declarative communication uses language forms that involve relative thinking processes – they imply that between two speakers there can be different views of reality.


CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Elaboration and Implementation


GOALS: To develop the capacity to understand the very abstract idea of feelings. To come to understand the sensation is a feeling that can be recognized and tolerated without requiring immediate action.


1. Continue to label his play experience with words as detailed in the curative factor skills

2. During U ‘N’ Me Playtime focus on using Curative Factor Skill #2 – Reflection and Attunement. Introduce feelings into
When his doll grabs your doll – rant and rave saying, “No, no, no, angry, angry, angry.” Alternatively, sob and repeatedly say, “I am sad.”
Tell him when he looks angry.
Use language such as “I’m guessing you are frustrated.”

3. In U ‘N’ Me Playtime and whenever you anticipate potential acting out ask, “How do you feel?”
Multiple choice type answers can help get this process going.

You must be clear and comfortable with anger and sadness so he can be, too.
With your patience and persistence he will come to expect your questions.
Your questioning creates a moment’s pause between him and his bodily sensation. This offers distance to step back from the impulse to hit and translate the impulse into an idea.


CREATIVE THERAPIES© Curative Factor Elaboration and Implementation

GOALS: To respond to nonverbal dialogue – the raising of your voice, making a stern face, wagging your finger in a reprimand. To internalize a sense of limits.

1. Continue to label his play experience with words as detailed in the curative factor skills

2. During the U ‘N’ Me Playtime:
Implement strategies specific to the challenge you are having. Discuss with me in our ‘phone-in’ tonight and I will give you play themes,
recommendations and language.
Give him ample room to feel engaged and secure and to express his feelings through the play. Let him be the boss in the play. Later you will be telling him what to do.

3. The play will be semi-structured compared to non-directive, as you create scenarios specific to your child’s discipline challenge.
Ask: How does he or the doll feel? Give ample time to express his feelings. This will build his desire to cooperate and decrease his need to express negative feelings when confronting the challenge itself.
Guess: How he will want to behave.
Offer multiple choices of alternatives.
Empathize with how the doll and your child are feeling

4. With challenges involving discipline it is especially important to increase U ‘N’ Me Playtime. Your child is facing more and more limits, which are coupled with angry feelings toward you. When you give him extra time to vent those feelings in play it will minimize the extent to which they spill out into other situations. The extra U ‘N’ Me Playtime will also strengthen the bond of trust between you, which is particularly important now that you are expecting more from him.

Your child will not learn to control his misbehavior until he has internalized a sense of limits, a picture of what is permissible and what is not. To have this picture he must be comfortable in the world of ideas; he must be able to hold and manipulate ideas in his head. When you punish a child you are reacting to his behavior with behavior of your own. In effect, you are encouraging him to remain at the behavioral level. More effective in the long run is to talk with him about his transgressions. By involving him in a discussion you elevate him to the level of ideas; you help him reflect on his behavior. Gradually you move him to the point of being able to discipline himself in his mind. He may still misbehave, but by talking-firmly and supportively-you both build his ability to correct himself and help him graduate to the level of ideas.

Patience, practice, time and support.


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