Natalie Kennedy Counselling and Psychotherapy in Waterloo, South East London, E5 and Online

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Therapeutic parenting is a relational, nurturing way of being with children who have been abused. neglected, have attachment difficulties or have experienced developmental trauma. Over time this helps the child to self-regulate, build new neural pathways in the brain and repair the relational patterns that are often passed from one generation to another. It offers a different way to understand what the child is communicating, how the adopter, special guardian or foster carer is impacted by the child and how to make sense of it so that the family can effect change.

Much of the latest research available suggests that children (and adults) who have experienced abuse and neglect are triggered into using heightened survival strategies as a way of trying to keep themselves safe (even if viewed from the outside, it puts them at risk). In this activated state, the prefrontal cortex (thinking part of the brain) goes offline and it then becomes impossible to be rational and/or think clearly.

As the attachment system is laid down in the brain and body before the child can speak, they often don’t have the language to explain or understand what is happening to them.

One to one parent sessions

Sometimes, the carer(s) may have been struggling for a while with the way a child is reacting in the home or school. This can activate the carer(s) coping strategies and lead to repetitive patterns that become entrenched. If this unhealthy dynamic is not interrupted it can have a negative impact on the child, carer and/or family and may result in the placement breaking down. In these sessions, I aim to support the carers to make sense of what the child is trying to communicate, help them to understand their own reactions and find practical solutions for the carers to practice. :

One to one child sessions

Attachment based, trauma informed 1-1 sessions using creative and experiential methods (as well as talking) to explore and attend to the effects of developmental trauma, and to build on resources and strengths. Regular sessions with guardians are used to integrate the work within the family 'system.'

Therapeutic Fostering. Animal Family

Ongoing Support Groups help the carers to embed the knowledge and put the ideas they have learned into practice with issues they are dealing with at home

As a trainer and tutor, I try to find playful and creative ways to explore different (and sometimes complicated) concepts and reflect on what the individual's experience is rather than focusing just on the child. I find that this helps people make sense of the child’s inner world and why they may be reacting in this way.


Being on the front line in Children's Services, Adoption and Fostering is a stressful and busy life. Understanding the philosophy of the therapeutic approach enables you to grasp what the carers are learning and trying to put into practice. It is useful for the training I deliver for foster carers to be revisited in order to ‘embed’ the ideas and strategies into their way of being with the children. Like everything new, we need to practice it until we feel confident we can do it on our own. Working together in this way creates a holding 'container' to support the children, the carers and the team around the family.

Alternatively, it can be used as a stand-alone course for you to develop new skills to support you in understanding the carer(s) and their habitual responses, as well as the relational dynamics between carers and the children in their care. It can also be a valuable tool to use in the process of assessing the carers in the Form F process and/or annual review.

Some examples that can be covered in the course include:

  • How can I understand why the carer is re -acting in a certain way and help the family to relate in a different way?
  • Why traditional parenting and the reward and punishment model doesn’t work for traumatised children
  • How does the unprocessed trauma impact the family and the social work team
  • Self-regulation and flight, flight, freeze responses
  • Intergenerational trauma and shame.
  • The importance of the working with difference so children can build a coherent story of their lives
  • Blocked care and secondary trauma

Clinical Thinking Sessions

These are incredibly useful in unravelling the unconscious dynamics which may be being played within the system surrounding the child. The unprocessed trauma in the child, the birth family, carers, social work and teaching team can create very powerful relational patterns or situations that are difficult to 'spot' or think about. Sessions are focused on surfacing unconscious material so it can be reflected on and acted upon in a considered and productive manner.

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