There is a great article in the November 2010 "Mind" magazine (from Scientific American), "Soothing Traumatized Children: Coloring books developed by psychologists help kids avoid long-lasting emotional problems." It outlines how kids suffering from trauma--such as those in earthquake-ravaged Haiti--are benefiting from writing, coloring, and drawing in workbooks focused on the disaster.

Typically, individuals who suffer from PTSD and other stress-related disorders have been shown to have abnormal or increased activity in the right hemisphere of the brain which is responsible for nonverbal and emotional processing. Writing or drawing about what happened to them during the earthquake, or telling about what happened to their homes, families, and friends allows children to develop and articulate a narrative that engages the left brain and helps them make sense of what happened.

Putting the trauma into a story seems to help significantly. A study of 6th to 8th graders that experienced Hurricane Katrina indicates symptoms of PTSD in those who used the workbooks for 30 minutes a week decreased by 20%!

Storytelling and myth has been a human function since early humanity. Creating context and locating our lives and experiences in a greater fabric of being can be transformational.

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  • I remember hearing that many psychotherapists were asked to leave Haiti because, instead of finding creative ways to help children work through their traumas like those mentioned, the therapists went in with a Western approach of taking the children away from everybody and asking them to tell their traumatic stories to a stranger only to retraumatize them. It may be a folk legend but I believe I heard it on the news. (which doesn't exactly make it any the less "created" these days.)
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