February 20, 2018

Movement Therapy for Adopted/Foster Children

Movement Therapy for Adopted/Foster ChildrenI shared with you in my series Adoption: Let’s Be Honest, that I would be giving parents looking to adopt or having adopted tools to be prepared when the pain of these children comes out. Today, we are looking at movement therapy for adopted/foster children.

Because trauma in children manifests itself in many different ways, medication has (and sometimes still is) been the go to prescription in treatment. Great strides have been made in identifying areas in the brain development that was affected by the disruption of having their primal needs met. Here is a brief history from a psychiatrist on trauma treatment.

It is encouraging to hear that professionals are now open to other forms of therapy. My guess would be this is due to the limited success of medicating the kids. An article in Adoption Today, also compares traditional therapy to another therapy known as Movement Therapy.

Movement Therapy for Adopted/Foster Children

Traditional therapy does little to create change in children who have experienced complex trauma. The child has little insight capacity between what he or she does, what he or she feels and what has happened to him or her. These children have not developed the emotional and cognitive skills to articulate their past experiences in a way that would help them synthesize, process and experience healing.

Movement therapy is critical to help these children heal and develop healthy parent-child bonds. Many of the behaviors of a child with Complex trauma are a tendency to repeat the trauma. Until this is recognized anything novel, including protective boundaries we set for them, the child will simply experience as trauma or those in their lives as perpetrators.

Trauma disrupts the mastery of physical sensations and the ability to regulate one’s body and emotions to be able to relax and feel an internal sense of safety. Safety needs to be established before they will be able to form a healthy parent-child relationship. To be able to develop this sense of safety a child needs to know where he or she is in space and within him or herself before addressing and looking at the trauma without repeating it.

Movement therapy addresses the developmental patterns that infants go through when in a safe environment. The developmental patterns, such as tummy time, rolling over, reaching out to grasp things, pulling things toward them, sitting up and crawling give the child the physiological and neurological pathways to form a healthy sense of themselves. A child learns and masters from these experiences, to be in the present moment. In a healthy environment they will be ale to reflect on this with a positive internal working model. Read this article.

Here is a great article from Movement Therapy Foundation on types of movement therapy for adopted/foster children.

Movement Therapy™ is being studied more intensively as a useful adjunct to rehabilitation programs for victims of stroke or spinal cord injuries.  Some neuroscientists are studying patients with spinal cord injuries to test the hypothesis that movement itself can cause damaged nerves to regenerate. Another important benefit of Movement Therapy™ that is increasingly recognized by mainstream as well as alternative practitioners is social support. Many people, particularly those suffering from depression related to physical illness or other forms of stress, find that taking a yoga class or other group form of Movement Therapy™ relieves feelings of loneliness and isolation. People who have taken therapeutic riding have reported that the positive relationship they develop with their horse helps them relate better to other animals and to people.

As this type of therapy becomes more studied and accepted, there will be more therapists available. For now, starting with a neurotherapist who can outline a movement program is a great start. They also may know of programs in your area that are useful for movement therapy for adopted/foster children.

This is a start to providing you, awesome adoptive parents, with as much information as you can take in (or store) to help you become the best parents for your child.


About the author: By

Julie is an awesome parent (along with her husband Matt) to five adopted kiddos and the owner of the Parenting Allies website.

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  1. We’ve had our daughter in riding lessons for the past 2 years. Makes a big difference in their healing, but gets a little sticky when using a reward system for behaviors.
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Disclaimer: We are not psychologists, counselors, or therapists. We are parents of children with special challenges, and the techniques, tools, and programs we recommend on this website have worked for us on our parenting journey.

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