Dr. Tim asked the eager group of counselors, “What good will 20 minutes do for a child to heal?”

It was a rhetorical question meant to provoke thought about the work he was training them to do with children in war-affected communities. To answer the question, consider some fundamentals of his method.

The Jacaranda Program, a unique method of play therapy, has been crafted by Dr. Tim over the past 25 years. It has been developed in war zones, impoverished and corrupt regions, and places where children are exposed to high stress and violence. This child-centered approach aims to restore a bond of trust between the child and the adult, paving the way for healing through child-led play and storytelling.

The children get to interact with each other and one of the counselors

Lay counselors and professionals are trained over five days to alter their conditioned role as leaders of children and begin to give concentrated presence and reflection that is not leading or corrective. After the 5-day training, a 5-day healing play camp is held where child-led interactions and adult support transform how adults and children interact. It is a step towards restoring trust and empowers the kids to tell their own stories in their own way as they feel secure with the adult partner in this therapy. It fosters a trust-based relationship where children begin to exercise their own traumas and stress through storytelling and playful interaction.

To answer his initial question, Dr. Tim asked another one. “How often has an adult been completely present and concentrated on you and your thoughts and feelings?” Everyone in the room gave a short sigh as they realized the significance of his questions.  Few of us remember a childhood moment when an adult concentrated on us and our experiences in this way.

According to Tim, 20 minutes of concentrated attention can be a significant step in a child's healing process, and the five-day healing play camp may transform a child's relationship to stress, pain, or trauma.

I am in Myanmar now, and the team of counselors is hosting the last day of their camp tomorrow. It is clear to us all that this way of working with children is transformative, and we are not only seeing children respond in wonderful ways, but we are also getting feedback from thankful parents who remark that “whatever you're doing, it's working!” After just 4 days, we see and hear significant reports of change, calm, altered attitudes, and a greater sense of security.

I am grateful for talented healers like Tim and the work my team does at Novi to bring him and his craft to places where war has disrupted childhoods. You who read these words, who support and pray for children in war-torn communities, are an essential part of bringing healing and hope to children struggling under terrible circumstances.

In Myanmar,

Steve Gumaer


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