The hands were bright orange, because orange represents feeling thoughtful. He is thoughtful when he uses his hands to help his brother, sister and mom.
Another set of hands were dark red, the color of anger, for when she wants to punch something. “My hands get hot and I want to yell.”
Each therapy sheet is a rainbow of colors in human form, representing emotions each child feels often and where they feel them in their bodies. “When I’m happy, my chest and stomach feel full of energy.” “When I’m scared, my heart beats fast and my chest hurts.” These sheets give us insights into each precious life and helps us to better understand behavior. This is trauma-informed practice, asking, “what happened to you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?” And it’s teaching kids to use their words instead of their red fists!
We have Libby Whitman to thank for this. Libby officially started as our mental health clinician just a month ago, though really, she’s been involved for a year now, having done an internship at CamdenForward School in her last year of graduate school. Libby graduated with her master’s in counseling from Westminster Seminary. She spent all summer collecting resources to use here at UrbanPromise, and our classroom walls all boast posters showing breath practices. The wellness room at our high school has a poster showing brain states and ways kids can self-regulate to get themselves back up from an alarmed state to rational thinking again. Teachers and students understanding that exhaling longer than inhaling is calming, while a longer inhale is energizing. Third grade is meeting as a class once a week to learn the difference between tattling and when it’s right to tell an adult something. Libby has checked in with every new student this year from k-12, helping to assure a smooth transition. And in between all of these commitments she is providing individual counseling as well as doing classroom check-ins.
I’m always worrying that Libby is doing too much but so far, she says she is happy and excited every day when she arrives here. She has so many gifts to share and our UrbanPromise community is blessed by her presence. So, welcome Libby! We are most thankful for you.