That’s what friends are for

That’s what friends are for

By Dr Paula Barrett

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the school wall – to see how your child copes in the rough and tumble of the playground?

Are they popular? Do they get bullied? Do they “play nice” with the other kids?

It’s natural for parents to want their children to socialise well and to be anxious if they think their child is struggling. But even though you can’t be there to guide your kids through the social minefield of the lunch break, you can still prepare them to form strong, positive relationships with others.

A good way to start is by praising your child for being a good friend to someone. Be specific. For example, say: “I really liked the way you asked Jessica to join you in the playground when you noticed she had nobody to play with. You are a good friend.”

Encourage your child to discuss ways they think they could be a good friend and share stories about your own friendships throughout your childhood and adult life. Explain why you consider someone a good friend. When you were little, they may have been a good listener or shared their toys. As an adult, there may a workmate who helps you use the computer or smiles when they we you. Also, give examples of things that create a bond with your friends. Do you share your recipes or make someone laugh?

When you hear your child talk about different situations from school, initiate discussions that explore how a good friend would react. For example, if your son tells you that he saw Jeremy fall over in the playground, ask how he reacted. Did he help Jeremy up? Or did he laugh?

It’s really important to help your child develop empathy and be more aware of how others are feeling. A child needs to be equipped to read the social cues that will make them sensitive to other people’s needs. Try to encourage your child to develop their empathy by suggesting courses of action. For example: “Your brother looks like he is feeling stressed about his exam tomorrow. Perhaps you could offer to get him a nice, cold drink”.

With support and encouragement, your child can learn how to make — and more importantly keep good friends.

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friends lift confidence in children

Friends lift confidence in children

Friends lift confidence in children

From Courier Mail

This is an article from the Courier Mail and it is about the the effects of the FRIENDS programs developed by Dr Paula Barrett.

“THESE youngsters have come ahead in leaps and bounds – all with a little help from their friends.

Once anxious in social situations, five-year-old Ashton McDonnell and sisters Brooke, II, and Cassidy Thornton. 8, are now confident kids thanks to a Queensland-devised educational program which focuses on developing emotional resilience in children and adolescents.

The “Friends”program has been used in countries including Germany, Netherlands, Norway, l’inland, Mexico and Japan and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key recently announced it would be rolled out in NZ schools.

Mother Vicki Thornton said the program has allowed her children to overcome many issues, including bully mg at school.

“It gave Brooke some tools to manage her anxiety,” she said. -She just grew in self confidence and then Cassidy did the program last year after I separated from their dad. They both loved it.”

The program’s founder, child and adolescent psychologist Professor Paula Barrett, said the program had been used by millions of children globally. “It’s not just for children with anxieties, its for all children to learn positive coping skills.” (…)”

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experts dr paula barrett

How the experts find their MOJO

How the experts find their MOJO

From Prevention Magazine

This is an article from the Prevention Magazine and it is about how Dr Paula Barrett deals with her every day.

“As a psychologist, I’m expected to be ‘up’ and happy all the time. But I’m only human; I have my challenging days, too. At times, it’s very difficult to fight against feeling worried and down.

As a child, I was very sensitive about what was happening around me; I was also a perfectionist. even now, I have very high expectations of myself, which isn’t always healthy. It was my sensitivity as a young child that led me to study psychology.

I’m Portuguese, so my parents are far away. I feel sad at times, especially during special holidays. “Luckily, I have a great circle of friends, a very supportive partner and grown-up children, and our loving animals.

I exercise twice a day. if I don’t exercise, I become too immersed in my work and my problems. Moving my body helps put things in perspective and injects me with energy and positivity. So I run or walk through the forest behind my house with our dogs. I usually swim 2 or 3 km after my afternoon run as well. Fresh air, the sound of the wind rustling, brids chirping and the happy yelps of my dogs all bring me pure joy.

I often think of my vovó [Portuguese for grandmother] and try to emulate her way of living. she always said we learn more from our adversities than from our successes.

It’s important to strip your happiness needs back to basics. Nature, homemade fresh bread, family, the laughter of children, the innocence of animals, red wine, classical and jazz music, a swim in the ocean a good book – these are the things that keep my spirits sky-high.”

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kids no longer play away

Kids no longer play away

Kids no longer play away

From Courier Mail

This is an article from The Courier Mail about anxiety in youngsters explained by Dr Paula Barrett.

“A NEW study has found almost 50 per cent of kids don’t play every day, prompting an expert to warn of a generation of depressed and anxious youngsters.

The study, hailed as the first of its kind in Australia, carried out a total of 1397 interviews, including 344 with children aged 8-12.

About 40 per cent of them said they don’t have anyone to play with, while 55 per cent say they would like more time playing with their parents. Forty-five per cent said they were not playing every day.

The Milo State of Play study, which also interviewed 733 parents and 330 grandparents, found more than 94 per cent of them believed that play was essential for child development.

But it is still rapidly falling off the list of priorities, said child psychologist Paula Barrett.

“The longer we de-prioritise it, the more likely we are to have unhappy and inactive Australian kids which are more likely to be anxious and depressed, resulting in a raft of social problems in adulthood,” she said.”

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Xavier foundation supports kids

Xavier foundation supports kids

From Village News

This is an article about how the Xavier foundation supported the treatment for kids done by Dr Paula Barrett.

“AUSTRALIA’S longest-running black-tie charity dinner has raised thousands of dollars from its 2009 event to go towards helping Australian school-age children, their families and school communities facing anxiety, depression or stress.

The Xavier Foundation, which has run the gala dinner for about 50 years, this year chose Brisbane’s Pathways to Resilience Trust to benefit from the money raised.

The centre provides a range of resilience programs for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, their families and schools.

Foundation spokesman Patrick George said the centre had man excellent reputation’ for helping thousands of Australian children, aiming to prevent the onset of anxiety and depression by providing positive-coping strategies and life-skills to promote resilience and mental health.

The inaugural dinner was the idea of prominent Brisbane businessman, the late Tim McCarthy, who formulated the concept of raising money for a chosen beneficiary at a gala event. Over the years, millions of dollars have been raised.

Mr McCarthy coerced Sir George Green from Eagers Ltd to donate a Holden motor vehicle to be given away at the inaugural dinner. Despite the hefty ticket price of £25, the dinner, held at Lennon’s Hotel, was a great success and the Xavier Dinner was born. “

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kids lifestyle dr paula barrett

Kids lost in busy lifestyle

Kids lost in busy lifestyle

This is an article about Dr Paula Barrett talking about anxiety in kids’ current lifestyle.

Anxiety problem grows

ONE in five Australian children is now suffering from anxiety disorder, thanks to modern essentials such as mobile phones and shopping centres, research shows.

The fast-paced lifestyles of Australian children — – which includes too little sleep, too • many gadgets, too much sugar, ton many demands and too little family support is mak-ing children overly anxious, Professor Paula Barrett told an Australian conference of psychiatrists yesterday.

Children as young as three have disorders that lead them to be over-anxious, fear separation from their parents, have poor attention, or have learning problems. Professor Barrett told the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists conference in Port Douglas.

“It is the speed of life that is doing this to our children -everything from loud noises to mobile phones to shopping centres,” Professor Barrett, an international expert in child disorders, said. “In most families both parents are in the workforce and the child doesn’t have the ability to grow up and be nurtured enough from within the family,” she said.

“Children are becoming very sensitive to change — whether it’s a new teacher at school or a new house, they are just not coping and many parents are just not emotionally in tune with their children.”

But she has refused to solely blame parents, believing that a variety of factors are the cause.

“There are just so many things happening to people these days we can’t do anything slowly,” Professor Barrett said.

“Kids have an incredible amount of stimulation which is just too much. Most children are sleep deprived even five-year-olds are staying up until 11pm playing on the computer.”

“And they have too much sugar in their diet from soft drinks and had food. Children don’t drink water, they drink .juice or soft drink.”

Professor Barrett (…) said positive attachment with peers, family and teachers and a sense of belonging at school or kindergarten helped improve children’s resilience.

 kids lifestyle dr paula barrett

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celebrations dr paula barrett



This is an article about Dr Paula Barrett after she was named Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

Paula Barrett

CHILD psychologist Paula Barrett says the key to being a successful woman is resilience.

“It’s about falling over and getting up again and again,’ she said. Ms Barrett, 46, has earned international recognition for developing intervention strategies for child-hood and adolescent anxiety.

Her Friends for Life prevention program, created in the early 1990s, is used in schools and clinics in 15 countries and in November she was named Telstra Business Woman of the Year

“When you look at people who have succeeded it always looks very easy, as though things just happen for them But they don’t,” Ms Barrett, who lives in Toowong in inner-Brisbane, said.

“Life has ups and downs. My advice is to stick with what you’re passionate about. A lot of people will try to knock you down, but persevere.” “

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The Queensland Principal Fun Friends

The Queensland Principal

Fun Friends

From The Queensland Principal

This is an article about the need for scientifically validated resilience and anxiety programs explained by Dr Paula Barrett.

“Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health problems in childhood and adolescence affecting up to 21010 of all children and youth. This estimate indicates that 1 in 5 children and youth or 4 to 6 students within a classroom of 30 children are at risk for experiencing an anxiety disorder. Currently, over 1 million Australian children under the age of 18 suffer from anxiety and/or depression. The World Health Organization has stated that obesity, early onset diabetes, anxiety and depressive disorders will be more prevalent in Western countries than any other health problem in the next 30 years. Further, the World Health Organization has found that mental health disorders are responsible for an estimated 110/0 of the disease burden worldwide which is projected to rise to 15% by the year 2020.

In time, every Australian family will need to access the medical care system to access mental health care (National Mental Health Council of Australia, 2004).

Once present, childhood anxiety disorders tend to be chronic and recurrent and rarely remit without treatment. In addition, many children who experience clinical levels of anxiety will experience more than one disorder with recent estimates suggesting that 65% to 95% of anxious children and youth will experience comorbid anxiety disorders. Childhood anxiety also has a strong association with depression and childhood anxiety disorders may actually precede the development of depression with studies indicating that 220/o to 44010 of anxious children and youth also experience depression. Given the significant relationship between anxiety and depression and the precedence of anxiety disorders, effectively treating anxiety in childhood and adolescence may help reduce the likelihood of a depressed mood in later life (Kendall, Safford, Flannery-Schroeder, Et Webb, 2004).

Unfortunately, most children and youth who suffer from anxiety will not actually receive clinical intervention (Olfson, Gameroff, Marcus, Et VVaslick, 2003). At the moment, only 5% of people suffering from anxiety or depression receive help. And for those who do many will terminate before program completion, some will relapse, and others will fail to respond to treatment (Barrett and Ollendick, 2004). Additionally, 74010 of mental illnesses commence before 18 years of age (Mental Heath Council of Australia; Kim-Cohen et al. 2004). Anxiety disorders in childhood are frequently overlooked as the symptoms are often unrecognizable. Anxious children tend to be shy, cooperative, compliant, and may present as the “perfect” child within the school setting and when away from home. Increased attention is given to children with disruptive behaviours as they clearly interfere with daily life functioning, home school life (Albano, Chorpita, Et Barlow, 2003).

Anxiety can become a chronic condition for man, children and can subsequently affect several life including academic performance, social interaction, self-confidence, and the ability to enjoy everyday life experiences (Barrett, 1999). Disruptions in their academic performance tend to occur as anxious children may find it difficult to start and complete tasks due to the fear that their work will not be good enough. These children tend to be highly perfectionist and often experience a higher dependence upon others which can be seen through their  constant reassurance seeking and needed approval from others (it. peers, parents, and teachers). Such a child may continually ask the teacher, “Is my work okay, did I do a good enough job?” or their friends, “Am I still your best friend today?” Anxious children tend to be overly sensitive to criticism, have low self-esteem (Barrett, 1999) and usually become preoccupied with their worries and the uncomfortable physiological arousal that accompanies them (hyperventilation, nausea, sweating, loose bladder, etc.). School refusal is commonly seen in anxious children as they display difficulty in attending and staying in school often resulting in a complete avoidance. Such effects of childhood anxiety often lead to strained relationships between the child and their peers, parents, and teachers and, if left untreated, can often lead into depression in adolescence.

The World Health Organization has found that Australia has the forth highest youth suicide rate in the world. In their annual report (2005-6) The Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian found that suicide is the number one cause of death for Australians aged 10 to 35. These staggering statistics create an ethical obligation for early intervention with preventative programs for children. Evidence-based resilience programs have found that school based prevention is the best milieu. Social and emotional skills affect performance in school and in the workplace to a greater degree than IQ (Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2006). It is thus a worldwide imperative to invest in emotional, social and cognitive education. Therefore, targeting children at Prep and school when they are young with scientifically validated resilience programs is the best opportunity for strategic investment in mental health today.

FRIENDS is the only anxiety and depression prevention and treatment program that has been scientifically validated and endorsed by the World Health Organisation as an effective program for the prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression in children and youth (World Health Organization, 2004). A number of trails must be undertaken for scientific validation of a program. Examples of steps in the process of validation include: the program must undergo a series of control trials nationally and internationally with replicated results by at least 2 expert international research teams. Further, the self-report and diagnostic measures must have strong, published psychometric properties and the program must have undergone a series of control trials for selective prevention and universal prevention in school settings for all age groups. Additionally, change must have been measured at post and long term follow up (for prevention trails a minimum of 3 year follow-up measures are required to prove maintenance of gains and true prevention effects). The FRIENDS program has proved successful for long-term benefits with prevention and resilience gains proven sustainable for at least 3 years following the program implementation (Barrett, P.M , Farrell, L.J., Ollendick, T.H., Et Dadds, M., 2006).

The FRIENDS program is a positively focused program which aims to increase social and developmental skills through the use of cognitive-behavioural techniques. The program allows for easy implementation at all levels of prevention, early intervention and treatment. It can be offered as a selective, indicated and universal program within the community or school setting. The FRIENDS program be delivered with ease by health professionals, teachers and school counsellors following an accredited workshop. (…) FRIENDS utilises two developmentally tailored workbooks for use with children (aged 7.11 years) (Barrett. 2004) or youth (aged 12-17 years) (Barrett, ‘200n), a leader’s manual with the content and process in each session, and can be run in both group and individual settings.

The program utilises the acronym “FRIENDS” to help children remember the strategies they learn to manage their anxiety. The FRIENDS acronym (Barrett 2005) stands for:


Remember to Relax. Have quiet time.

I can do it! I can try my best!

Explore solutions and coping step plans.

Now reward yourself! You’ve done your best!

Don’t target to practice.

Stay calm for life!

The word FRIENDS highlights the main objectives and themes of the program. Children are encouraged to: 1) think of their body as their friend as it tells them when they are feeling worried by giving them clues (physiological and somatic response); 2) to be their own friend and to look after their body through emotional regulation exercises; 3) to talk to their friends when they are in difficult situations and to help others when they are in difficult situations, and; 4) to reward themselves when they’ve tried their best.

The FRIENDS program incorporates several important cognitive-behavioural components that are based on skill acquisition, including, 1) psycho-education regarding feelings; 2) understanding the physical expression of anxiety and how to use relaxation skills; 3) cognitive restructuring and positive self-talk; 4) problem-solving skills and graded exposure tot achieving goals and facing tears; 5) the importance of self-rewards and trying hard, achieving goals, and; 6) relapse prevention and learning how to maintain skids for life. Inc booster sessions facilitate the generalisation of skills and help children to apply the FRIENDS skills to everyday situations and future challenges.

The FRIENDS program also includes a family skins component which involves parents during each stage of the program. A collaborative “team” approach is emphasized within the FRIENDS program where the facilitator, parent(s), siblings and the children work together with a shared goal of increasing confidence and coping skills. The family component of FRIENDS is aimed at empowering everyone in the family to recognize their skills and strengths and to use these skills to help one another become more confident and brave. Parents are educated about the development of anxiety in childhood and the distinction between normal developmental fears and anxiety disorders. Parents are taught about the identification of the risk and protective Linton; of anxiety; they learn strategies to recognize and manage their anxious children; and they learn how to recognize and modify negatively reinforcing parenting practices Parents learn about the FRIENDS skills during the two structured parent sessions which are outlined in the current editions of the leaders manuals (Barrett, 2005).

It is recommended that program leaders conduct 2 comprehensive parent sessions which comprise the entire content of the program. Within the school setting it may be difficult to attract some parents to the parent sessions so it is recommended that the sessions be held during convenient times for the parents (e.g. during lunch, immediately after school, in the evening). In the treatment setting (e.g. private health clinic) parents are actively involved in every session as they usually join each session (group or individual) for the last 30 minutes to discuss the skills that were taught. Parents are encouraged to work with and practice the FRIENDS skills through the “family homework” activities that are assigned at the end of each session. Parents are encouraged to take an active role in the program as research has indicated that the inclusion o’ parents in program implementation has a Positive impact on the treatment of anxious children.

Due to the large evidence-base and extensive results indicating that the FRIENDS program for children and youth is effective, the next step in research was to develop the FRIENDS program for an even younger age.

The Fun FRIENDS program (Barrett, 2007), is a downward extension of the pre-existing FRIENDS programs targeted for children aged 4 to 6 years. Research reviews strongly suggests that the preschool years are essential for building social-emotional skills (Heckman, 2000). Children who are socially and emotionally well adjusted to do better at school, have increased confidence, have good relationships, take on and persist at challenging tasks and communicate well (National Research Council and Institutes of Medicine 2000). Further, early intervention in schools reduces onset of youth anxiety and depression.

The Fun FRIENDS program focuses on developmentally sensitive cognitive-behavioural techniques to teach children social-emotional learning to increase resilience and decrease emotional distress. The developmentally tailored CBT skills include: teaching children cognitive problem-solving skills for dealing with interpersonal challenges; recognizing and dealing with body clues (i.e. physiological arousal) through breathing control and progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive restructuring (recognizing and changing unhelpful red thoughts to helpful green thoughts); attention training (looking for the positive, happy aspects of a given situation); graded exposure to fears (creating coping step plans); and family and peer support.

The Fun FRIENDS program targets three major areas of social-emotional learning curriculum; 1) Self Regulation: the ability to adjust to new situations, awareness of own feelings and the ability to manage emotions; 2) Responsibility for self and others: demonstrates self-direction and independence, respects and cares for the classroom or group environment, follows routine and rules; and 3) Pro-social behaviour: plays well with others, recognizes others feelings and responds appropriately, shares, respects the rights of others and uses thinking skills to resolve challenges and conflicts. The program incorporates all the above skills and each session corresponds with one of the three curriculum areas mentioned for social-emotional development. The program is 10 sessions whereby each session is broken down into 15 minute learning activities (4 to 5 learning activities for each session), so that the program objectives are reinforced daily through experiential, play-based activities such as the use of play, dramatic role-play, story telling, music, movement and art.

The first Fun FRIENDS trial was conducted within 16 preschool classrooms in Brisbane, Australia. Eight class-rooms received the program by a clinically trained postgraduate student (intervention group) and the eight remaining classrooms were used as a comparison group (waitlist control group) and received the program by their teachers in the following school term. In total, 319 children, aged 4 to 6 years, participated in the trial.

To assess the effectiveness of the Fun FRIENDS program, parents and teachers completed a number of self-report questionnaires. Results to date have been positive and highlight the long-term effectiveness of the program. Results have shown that children in the intervention group experienced a statistically significant decrease in anxiety symptoms from pre to post to 1 year follow-up An effect for time was found indicating that at each time-point (pre, post,1 year follow-up), children’s anxiety symptoms continued to decrease and this decrease was maintained 1 year following program implementation. Results also indicated that levels of parental stress for both mothers and fathers significantly decreased from pre intervention to 1 year follow-up for children in the intervention group only, indicating that parental stress was significantly lower following the program and this was maintained over time. Both parent and teacher report indicated increased levels of social arid emotional strength from pre to post intervention for children in the intervention group. Upon further examination of this result, a high level of concordance was found between parent and teacher report indicating that parents and teachers are highly communicative during preschool and appear to be observing the same level of symptoms/strengths in the children.

These results highlight the effectiveness of the Fun FRIENDS program in decreasing anxiety, decreasing parental stress and increasing social and emotional strength in preschool children. The preschool years represent an ideal time to intervene as there is a high level of communication between parents and teachers which is essential when implementing interventions with young children as the skills learnt in the program are more likely to be substained in both the home and school setting.

FRIENDS has a strong evidence-base and has been shown to be both an effective treatment and preventative intervention, for children and youth with anxiety and depression. Research to date indicates that one in five adults and children suffer anxiety or depression (more prevalent than drug use, attention deficit disorder, or any health problem) but only 5% of cases receive intervention. Suicide is the NUMBER 1 cause of death in Australia in the 10-35 years age group, and Queensland together with the Northern Territory have the highest incidence of suicide in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). We all have an ethical obligation to intervene and promote preventative and effective treatment strategies for our children and youth. .A universal intervention in the school curriculum which targets all children with a community systematic approach will enhance the resilience skills of children, teachers and their families with long term sustainability.

Implementation of the FRIENDS program in the core curriculum of schools will help reduce anxiety urn manifestations including depression, eating disorders, behaviour problems, alcohol and other substance misuse, bullying and youth suicide. FRIENDS is one of the best and most cost-effective investments in child and youth mental health that is available for implementation in the school setting today.”

The Queensland Principal Fun Friends

The Queensland Principal Fun Friends

The Queensland Principal Fun Friends

The Queensland Principal Fun Friends

The Queensland Principal Fun Friends

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Head2Head Article

Bouncing Back

From Head2Head

This is an article about resilience and social and emotional skills explained by Dr Paula Barrett.

“A lending expert in the field of child and adolescent mental health provides us with tips on developing resilience and happiness in the young.

Professor Paula Barrett (…) authored and implemented a program called Friends. The program runs in Australia and around the world and is considered best practice by the World Health Organisation for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety anti depression.

According to Professor Barrett, when it comes to the mental health of children and adolescents, there is no single cause of either their happiness or their distress. Instead, there are various risk and protective factors determining the extent to which a child is at risk of, or protected from, developing emotional difficulties.

Positive factors help build resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity and stress. Resilience can be nurtured by parents or other adults, peers, and programs such as Friends. Friends uses cognitive behavioural therapy to help children think positively and act appropriately when facing life challenges.

“Social and emotional skills are the most important skills we can give our children for long-term happiness and success in life,” Professor Barrett says.

“Social and emotional skills include looking people in the eye, learning to speak with a confident voice, recognising feelings in ourselves and others, learning empathy, learning to make positive friendships and to share, and learning how to behave in social situations.

“Children who have learned these skills will be more resilient than others. They will adjust better to change, have a more positive start to schooling and know how to form and maintain positive friendships. They will will relate better to parents, siblings and teachers and know how to calm down and regulate their feelings when things get tough.

“These children will be happy to try new things.”

Further protective factors include having a strong positive attachment to at least one adult, such as a parent, teacher or friend; possessing or developing a positive thinking style; having a strong support network such as an extended family, sport club or church group; and being in a school environment in which a child feels at ease and accepted.

Being active is another important factor. Professor Barrett recommends that children walk, run or cycle a minimum of three kilometres a day.

Diet is another crucial factor. “Too much sugar in the bloodstream can lead to hypertension, the development of diabetes and the related anxiety of daily injections,” she says.

Professor Barrett also believes that children should sleep a minimum of nine to 10 hours a day. “Lack of sleep leads to a greater vulnerability to stress, illness, lack of attention, inability to cope, irritability and anxiety symptoms.”

The good news is that there are more protective factors than risk factors.

“While the brain, particularly up to the age of 16 or 17, is especially vulnerable to emotional trauma and traumatic life experiences, it is also open to neurological growth through brain exercise. The brain is plastic,” Professor Barrett says.

“Despite trauma or lack of early loving experiences. some damage can be repaired at a neurological level through the development of close, loving relationships at any stage of life

“There is hope for emotional repair for both children and adults.” “

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