TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Child abuse and trauma can intensify when families are under stress. NewsChannel 8's Erin Christy found out how mental health workers are modifying their work to continue seeing the growing number of children who need their help.
At the Parent Child Center of Tulsa, Licensed Professional Counselor Nicole Marolf uses play therapy to encourage young, often traumatized children to express themselves.
"A lot of their trauma comes out through play, and a lot of their healing comes out in play because they can play things out that they don't know how to talk about yet," said Marolf.
But the pandemic presented new challenges.
Kim Parker, vice president of clinical services, says with fewer kids in school, church, or activities, reporting of abuse cases is way down.
"We still have a lack of eyes on children to know if child abuse and neglect is going on," Parker said.
And with the families they do have, moving to telehealth wasn't something play therapists typically dealt with, but quickly learned it can work.
"Growth and healing can happen over Zoom. It's just making the most of the situation they are in," said Marolf.
They work with families for mindfulness exercises, puppet shows, or reading books about trauma.
"Or scavenger hunts where they have to go find things that make them feel a certain way, like go find something that makes you feel proud, find something that makes you feel safe," said Marolf.
Today, a few clients will come into the office for play therapy sessions one or two days a week. Temperature checks are required with masks and social distancing in the playroom.
It's a new routine so mental health workers can continue helping families through an overwhelming time in everyone's lives.