The “safe place” technique for calming Children dealing with Fear.
This is a strategy that can help children cope with their fears, and is especially useful for child victims of sexual abuse. Here, counselors help children create their own imaginary safe place. Children can learn to use this technique even outside of their counselling sessions so that they can soothe their fears independently.
The process of the “Safe place” Technique:
The counselor may say, “Close your eyes and picture a special place where you feel completely safe.” The counselor then follows up by asking questions that capture additional details, such as “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What are you doing in your safe place?” The counselor records these details and uses them to create a script.
Similar to other guided imagery scripts, the safe place script often begins with asking children to close their eyes and take several slow breaths. Many children enjoy using the safe place script as a closing ritual to their individual sessions. This can be especially helpful when the sessions have focused on processing their traumatic experiences. The more a child does this, the more effective the technique is - this is the way our brains work. Repetition is key!
When they have their safe place, children can also express it in the form of art - such as creating their safe place in a drawing or painting or with clay. This extension of the technique may help children better picture and describe their special place.
The comfort kit, aka the “feel better bag”
This involves having a collection of “comfort items''. The original purpose of this technique was to help children who engage in nonsuicidal self-injury to learn self-soothing strategies. It can also be used to help child victims of sexual abuse by providing them with a tactile strategy for coping with fear.
The process of the “comfort kit”
This intervention begins with learning about this technique. Counselors then help children brainstorm and create a list of items that bring them comfort and make them feel better. Although the counselor guides the process, it is the children who choose what will go inside their box or bag.
Common items that children include are their safe place script, a blanket, music, a favorite stuffed animal, guided imagery (either written or recorded), a stress ball, a list of relaxation activities, bubbles (for deep breathing exercises), a favorite book, a picture of a caring person or special place, a journal and pen, art supplies and a list of self-affirmations.
Children then select a container that can hold the items they have selected. The child can decorate the outside of the container, and directions on how to use the comfort kit can be adhered to the inside of the box.
Adult survivors can use this technique too. Some physical objects (such as meditation tools, a soft toy or soothing music) can help create the right environment of feeling safe.