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Smack or not to smack? A sting in the tail.


Smacking cruelty or discipline


To smack or not to smack?  The debate rages on. Max Pemberton a journalist and NHS psychiatrist has caused a bit of a stir. He claimed that smacking doesn’t cause deep seated psychological damage to children.

The issue was also aired on GMT on Tuesday 15th August. “Parenting Guru” Sue Atkins  and  Pro Smacker Katie Ivens both argued their cases amidst some input from Jeremy Kyle.

In the wake of these opposing views – I’d like to invite Dr Pemberton and Ms Ivens to shadow me on a working day. A working day where the affects of child violence, often verbally disguised as discipline, are all too poignantly seen. In a few cases with tragic consequences.

In theory, many would agree that the occasional controlled smack carried out by a loving parent does not harm  kids in the long term.

Imagine a situation where your toddler suddenly runs into a busy road.  There’s no time call him back.  Instinct  ensures that you grab him, often roughly, by the nearest part of his body to prevent a tragedy.

This is necessary manhandling, fuelled by adrenaline. Most of us have done this and followed it up with a hug of relief, thankful our child is safe.  When a smack follows rather than a hug of relief, what is it really about?  Is it to teach? Is it an outward expression of parental rage, a venting of feelings of failure for taking the eye off the ball so to speak? Is it perhaps an asserting of adult control over a smaller individual?  Is smacking for the good of the child or to soothe the bruised adult ego?

In spite of this argument, there may be a case for smacking but consider this. If all parents’ had adequate ego control, positive coping strategies and good emotional regulation, perhaps controlled smacking might be acceptable on some occasions.

The hard truth is the abused children we clinicians meet up and down the country have never experienced a controlled smack in an environment of care.

The reality is that many children are physically abused daily under the pretence of smacking and good discipline.

When a parent loses control, and physically chastises a child (which is often how smacking happens), it is often explained as disciplining an out of control child.

The situation is often that the parent has snapped, has in the moment lost parenting skills and has instead  reacted physically to the child’s behaviour.

Smacking would be ok perhaps, if all adults could remain rational, calm and in control of their emotional regulation in times of stress,

The huge number of physical abuse cases are evidence that many parents have neither the emotional resilience or practical skills to manage their children’s difficult behaviour and resort instead to physical punishment.  A smack in the hands of an angry and out of control adult can escalate into extreme violence. This is often under the misguided notion of discipline.

Physical abuse is one of the primary causes of both attachment difficulties in children and more enduring mental health conditions. This is a primary reason why smacking is not acceptable. Smacking is the thin end of the wedge.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Psychologist



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Rare Disease and Not Being Heard by Your GP

Rare disease, you and the GP

Living with a rare illness is a struggle. Dealing with an ignorant GP increases that struggle.

Those feelings of not being listened to, increase the isolation, ramp up the stress and contribute to disease progression.

I do not use the term ‘ignorant’ as an insult, rather I chose it to reflect the true meaning of the word.  Ignorant = destitute of knowledge

Rare Diseases and GP Treatment

A GP’s case load normally consists of the everyday ailments of living plus a few more rarer ones.  GP’s are not trained to know about the rare diseases that patients present with. This is where the problems can start.

Trying to inform your GP about your rare disease and the tests you currently need is often akin to tip toeing through a volcanic minefield. Why is this? It’s rather simple. Most GP’s have been conditioned to believe they know most things about our health. Repeated consultations with grateful patients reinforce this.

GP’s can occasionally become omnipotent. Faced with a patient who knows more than them about a certain condition, (we raries must do in order to survive), can be threatening to their self-perception. They do not like to feel small and may immediately and unconsciously deflect or project on to us.

This has often happened when the patient comes away feeling a hypochondriac, or a timewaster. The patient shuffles away feeling awful and the normal power inequality is restored. What has happened is rarely questioned, except perhaps in a therapist’s room.

How to Assert Yourself if You’re Not Being Heard by Your GP

It can be very helpful to take a second when you feel talked down to and patronised. This is your moment to regroup and have another go.

1. Hold your ground

2. Repeat your requests slowly and clearly in a non defensive tone.

3. Remain measured and stay in adult mode.

Your GP will feel less threatened and reduce the superior tone. He or she will have no choice but to operate in adult mood as well. This normally produces a win situation. You, I and our families lose when we walk away feeling stupid.

It is also critically important to research as much as you are able and make sure your information is correct to help yourself. Lastly, I recommend getting a book on assertion if it is hard for you to stay in control in difficult situations, or you can find some great internet resources on how to be more assertive in general.

Guest Writer – Tizzard Psychology



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Autism – Top tips for reducing sensory overload at Christmas

 Top tips for Xmas

 Top tips for reducing sensory overload at Christmas

Christmas can be great fun for all. A time for good old fashioned family fun. A time when the usual routines follow Santa back up the chimney and melt in the snow.
Yeah right! Not usually the case if you have a son or daughter who has a diagnosis of Asperger’s/Autism.
The change of routine; the carefree get up when you feel like it, the eat when hungry routine usually causes havoc. Havoc leads to a visit from those Autism bad elves; Anxiety, Meltdown and Sensory Overload.
Kids with Asperger’s and Autism can have a great Christmas too. But, it takes a little preparation. The tip is to start the planning early. This allows the child to take on board the necessary information that he or she needs to prevent a spike in anxiety as Christmas draws nearer. Try these simple tips to squeeze the best from the Christmas season.
  1. If you visit  friends or family take food you know s/he will like. No new clothes during the holiday. Use only clothes that are well worn and comfy. If necessary, bribe grandparents not to buy clothes as presents.
  2. Make a mind map of the Christmas celebrations with your child. Design the main days with him or her. Pens, coloring pencils and Post It notes are a must! Explain in full how things will work.  It’s a good idea to devise a strategy for the lack of structure (which other family members need). You do this by describing the kind of things that might happen. Explain that family members may get involved in a range of activities. This allows a mental map to be made in your child’s brain. This reduces anxiety.
  3. Provide a safe space free of sensory overload. Allow your child to take ‘time out’ there, especially when you notice their stress levels rising. No decorations or trees in this place at all. It is fine to allow him or her to eat cheese straws in this den on Xmas day. The big day is not the time to press your child to eat different items.
  4. Have a few of your child’s favourite activities ready. This is just as important as chopping the veg in advance. You might think this is boring at such a fun time BUT the child will appreciate the familiarity.
  5. Take your sensory kit wherever you go. This will reduce the chance of overload.
  6. Scale down expectations. Think ‘It’s a normal day with injections of joy’.
Each of these little things will reduce sensory overload and help you all to enjoy the festive season.  Baa Humbug!
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard  – Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist   We  are providers of  independent autism assessments throughout southern England  through Treetops

reducing sensory overload at Xmas


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Walk towards a better mood – New research

walking really does improve a mood

Walking really does improve a mood

It’s official. You can walk off a negative mood and quickly.
A team of researchers at Iowa university have confirmed that walking can blast away a negative mood. Better still, it does not need to be a fast aerobic stroll. Astonishingly, a 12 minute walk at speeds of just 3mph will raise a bad mood.
A study involving 400 undergraduates at Iowa State University and published in the Journal Of New Emotion has confirmed this amazing fact.
Surprisingly, the researchers also found that the walk location was unimportant. Forget, the thought of the beautiful Sussex downs in her Autumn hues.  Participants who merely walked around an urban, drab and featureless university concourse were just as likely to report an improvement in mood as those who had walked in beautiful surroundings.  Even students who walked on a treadmill for 12 minutes reported an increased mood. Those who sat at the end of the treadmill waiting for their friends felt worse than when they entered the gym.
Jeffrey Miller study author and assistant professor at Saint Xavier University. Asserts “There seems to be something about that brisk, purposeful walk that is really good for you”.
The study increases the previously held view that even a short walk can be a valuable prep to a difficult situation. So, what are you waiting for? You could take some of the heat out of that imminent meeting with the boss. It is certainly worth a try.
These findings add weight to the already well known benefits of walking.  Previous research has concluded that regular walking can slow down dementia progression, prevent osteoarthritis, lower overall cancer risk and help in weight and blood pressure maintenance.   So what are you waiting for?
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Consultant Chartered Psychologist. Director CTP Ltd.

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Bird’s Nest Parenting – Friend or Foe?


Birds Nest Parenting

In the UK we are beginning to hear more about a concept known as ‘Birds Nest Parenting’.  This practice is becoming more popular in the US and in Australia.
What is it?
Birds Nest Parenting is an arrangement where the children remain in the family home after their parents have split up. Mum and Dad each take turns in living with them.
The belief is that the children will experience less disruption and anxiety if they stay in the family home. In practice, Mum and Dad might make an arrangement to stay in the house on alternate weeks. During this period the resident parent provides all the care to their children.
Advocates of this method view the arrangement as a tool that can provide more stability to the children. In theory, the children do not have the stress of living in two places, moving their stuff around and perhaps getting upset. The goal of a Birds Nest Agreement is to cause less stress.   Less stress means the children will be less affected by their parents separation.  This may be true up to a point.  While there are clear advantages in a Bird’s Nest Agreement there are also disadvantages that need to be examined.
The cons are that it can be very hard for the adults to find closure in their own relationship when they continue to inhabit space that was once a shared home.  This often causes stress and animosity.  This is distress the children will ‘pick up’ on.
There are also temptations to use the ex-partner’s possessions as if they were still together. This usually causes resentment.  The children may become unintentional pawns. They can often be questioned by the other parent. ‘Did Mum or Dad do this or that’ or ‘Did Mum or Dad use this or that’.  This is not intended to harm their children but it does.
A further problem is that as the children are always present in the home they may develop a ‘pseudo adult’ role.  This means they may assume more responsibility for the running of the house than they should.   This may also include keeping the adults informed about the other partner’s movements. This  loads the stress that the agreement was supposed to prevent. Extra distress may lead to emotional difficulties.
Birds Nest Parenting may have a benefit in the early days after a separation. In the short term it may prevent the children from experiencing too much upheaval.  Children need time to adjust to their parent’s separation.
In the longer term it may be more beneficial for children to spend time with both parents in separate houses, having their own room and cherished items in each house.  Children will adapt to this well and  usually without psychological difficulty.
The simple fact is – most children cope well after their parent’s separation.  What distinguishes the copers  from the children who feel acute distress is this – the children who fair well are the ones whose parents are able to put aside their own feelings of hate and resentment towards their former partner.
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard  Chartered Consultant Psychologist .  Dr Tizzard works with adults, children and families and is an experienced expert witness in criminal and family law.


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The Academy Fire Selsey – A Loss

THE SELSEY ACADEMY FIRE – Moving forward.  

academy fire

The Selsey Academy Fire

The 21st August 2016 was a sad day for Selsey.  The Selsey Academy fire will go down in the history of the town.

It will be remembered in a similar way to the tornado that ripped through roofs in January 1998.  After the tornado the stoical folks of Selsey pulled together.  Yesterday, some 18 years later, the ‘Selsey Spirit’ rose  again.  Social media helped mobilise the ‘troops’ who organised themselves efficiently to supply food and drink to the firefighters. The smoke has cleared. The reality has begun to bite.  Selsey has lost a focal point of the community.

Similar to Bereavement

The feelings that arise are similar to those of bereavement. Nobody has died yet a sense of loss hangs in the air.

There is initial shock. Statements are heard like ‘This can’t be true’, (Denial).  Quite quickly awareness widens to acknowledgement.  The Academy was destroyed by fire. It will leave a gap in the community. As the reality sets in, some people will express anger.  Already and without concrete evidence there have been claims that the fire must have been started by an arson attack.  When people feel helpless, the blame game is played. To play the blame game a  ‘scapegoat’ is needed.   You will hear questions like – Were the firefighters quick enough? and Were there sprinklers fitted in the building?

Each of these comments are normal when individuals feel powerless. The objective of the blame game is to feel less powerless.  Try not to buy into it. It divides us and delays the process of moving forward.  After this comes a sense of sadness for what was lost. Finally, acceptance will be reached and we will be able to move forward as a community.

The town is going through a process of disbelief, anger, blaming and sadness. All of this is normal and takes time until we reach acceptance

Possible effects on pupils

For students the process is more difficult. They need to adapt to the loss of their school. There is  likely to be a period of anxiety about the future and about where they will go to school. They will also worry about their friendships.

Parents may notice a quietness in their children or an increase in teenage moodiness. They need time to adjust. This is big news to them. Their cognitive systems need time to process this knowledge. Children who have experienced a change in family situation in the last 12 months may feel the uncertainty more. Take time to listen to your child’s concerns and respond with the actual knowledge you have.

At present the precise arrangements for the children’s schooling is not clear, it can’t be as yet.  It’s crucial that the children are supported at this time.

Parents can help by reassuring their child that clear plans are being made for their education. It may take a while to fine tune the details but what is certain is that a practical solution is being developed.

It is an unpleasant situation but if handled sensitively, your child will have developed important coping strategies and an ability to manage unexpected change. This lesson will be as important as any formal teaching of emotional intelligence.


Witten by Christine Tizzard Psychology

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Back to school tips – autism

back to school

Autism matters – Back to school tips

Autism can cause stress to parents. The return to school after the Summer holidays is difficult for most.  Many pupils experience varying amounts of anxiety as do their parents. Children with autism often find change unmanageable. The return to school is no exception.

These simple tips shared with parents over many years really do help ease autism symptoms.

1. Re-establish a connection with school.

Try to set up a meeting with staff where you can build on and develop the existing relationship. Your relationship with the school team is crucial to your child’s wellbeing.

See if you are able to visit school with your child before the official start day.  The purpose is to learn about new things. These might be locker combinations, the timetable, the dining hall, etc.  New ‘things’ and ‘places’ are usually overwhelming to a child with autism.

Buy uniform early and wash many times. Many children with a diagnosis of autism are very sensitive to new fabrics and prefer the feel of worn fabric. Reducing sensory overload reduces the likelihood of meltdowns.

Once you have the ‘knowledge’, you can practice new skills at home with your child. Social stories are a really useful tool.

2.  Start the switch from holiday routine to school routine early.

Write the date of the new school term on your child’s calendar, (a visual aid really helps adjustment).  Practice the journey in the car, on the bus or train.   This includes finding a regular parking spot and even an alternative for the days when you are unable to park in the usual place. Make a chart for these patterns/activities and involve your child in the making of the chart. These tips may seem annoying but it is worth it. Once a routine is established and becomes familiar, the stress will reduce.  Attention to the finer details makes for a smoother transition back to school.   The trick is to make the new routine familiar.   This will lessen the possibility of meltdowns on the first day of term.

It is important to allow roughly 10 days to get your child into the school day ‘wake up’ routine.  On the first day of preparation, set the alarm clock for a little earlier in the morning. Get your child into uniform and to eat breakfast. It’s fine for him or her to go back to bed afterwards.   Over several days move the wake up time gradually closer to ‘school morning wake up time’.   A positive reward like a glass of fresh orange juice or his/her favourite cereal will help during this practice period.

3. Help your child’s friendships

Many children with autism have very restricted interests.   Despite this, they are likely to have an interest that is shared by some of the other children.   Do your homework.   Make sure that you send your child into school equipped with something that will draw the interest of other children. If this seems too difficult, it’s worth asking your child’s form teacher for help. Work at maintaining these relationships.

4. Stay upbeat 

Living with autism often feels overwhelming. It is very easy to dwell on past events and worry about ‘another’ school year. The beginning of term is an adjustment for everyone in the house, especially caregivers. Remaining positive really helps. Spoil yourself a little!

5. Reality not as rehearsed

Remember that sometimes even rehearsed events don’t go to plan. Talk to your child about this possibility. Develop a strategy with your child which may be used at such times. Share this strategy with your child’s teacher or support worker.  This will provide a sense of base to your child when he or she feels most unsafe.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered consultant adult, adolescent and child psychologist, chartered scientist and psychotherapist.  Dr Tizzard and her team are based in Chichester, West Sussex and provide independent autism assessments and intervention. Emphasis is placed on working together closely with parents and schools providing an integrated and bespoke service.


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Exam Results not good? How to move forward without stress


CALM method

Exam results not good?   Use the CALM approach to success.

Symptoms of stress emerge when we feel out of control – when the plan or road map suddenly does not work as expected.

When we do not have a Plan B, most of us feel LOST.  To get back in control and kick the stress, we need a good strategy that won’t fail.  A failure to achieve anticipated grades is one of these occasions.  Right now you may feel lost and without hope.

It may feel like your future has just flushed down the pan.   This is complete rubbish. It is an unpleasant feeling that you are registering.  It is not a FACT.  We are all liable to go into emotional reasoning rather than cognitive thought at times.  The truth is emotional reasoning can sometimes be really painful and lead to depression.

Right now, you need a cognitive factual strategy to feel in control again. I use the acronym of CALM with my clients. It is not rocket science but it works.

Try this simple four point plan to get back in control and feel better fast.

  Chill out

  Act Later

  Look at ALL options

  Move forward from a power position


Chill Out

When you find out that your grades were not what you wanted, try to stay calm. Emotions usually become far too heated. There is anger and then tears. Your tears and your parent’s tears.  Remember, you are NOT your exam grades.

Try to chill out, do some exercise, rest, take a trip. Do something nice. Be calm. Don’t binge on alcohol or other substances, they only cloud thinking and invite depression.

Remember you may be upset but how real is that distress? How much is really your pain? The chances are that you have picked up on other people’s expectations of you; teachers and parents – both who have an interest in your results. Part of that interest is altruistic but some may really be more about them. If you get good grades, then they feel a great teacher or a proud parent with brilliant genes. The truth is what happens now is about YOU and YOU alone. Look after you, not other people’s egos.

Act Later

Acting on impulse while stressed is a pretty sure-fire recipe that any decisions made will be all wrong. Sit with it. You can endure the distress; it will be temporary. It will pass.

Look at all the options

After you have had a period of calm. Possible courses of action will come to mind naturally. Far more easily than if you have tried to force the issue. The brain will be in a better position to construct a Solution Focussed Plan after a period of rest.

Look at your options:

a) Is it a retake or a resit?  How do you find out if this may be possible?

b) Is it a change of course?  If so, what might be possible? Who do you need to speak to, email, telephone? Construct a simple flow chart and make that call.

c) Take positive action rather than dwelling on passive inaction.

d) Move forward.  Now move confidently forward knowing that the plan is sustainable and achievable.

Remember the saying – ‘Good sailors don’t try to change the weather they simply adjust their sails’.

Benefits of failing

Being able to adjust to situations that were not planned can be a powerful lesson in developing coping strategies. Life rarely goes to plan. We need to be able to adapt and develop the ability to change direction when needed.  This is how a robust character is formed.

Extreme cases

It is stressful to fail one’s exams but it is not traumatic. There is a huge difference. Trauma does not offer a second chance but this set back is simply that. Life can and will go on. Dreams can still be achieved.  When trauma strikes nothing will ever be the same.  This is a bump in the road not a sink-hole.

It is important to note that the media have a vested interested in reporting sad stories. It sells. Most people who do not achieve expected grades do not self-harm or commit suicide, contrary to what is reported by the press.  Those that do harm themselves  usually already have a serious depression or other mental health disorder. However, media and social media focus on these stories without the necessary understanding of underlying issues.

Need more help?

If you can’t get rid of these negative feelings and most people will (once they have a new plan) you should: –

Talk to someone whose judgement you trust. He/she will give your perspective on the issue. If there is nobody you feel able to speak to try speaking to a counsellor or a youth service.

The important thing is to talk about your fears. Don’t bottle them up.

If you feel suicidal or have thoughts about harm you MUST speak to your GP.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard  Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist and Chartered Scientist.



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Autism: Recipe for avoiding holiday hell

Autism: Recipe for avoiding holiday hell

Autism: Avoiding holiday hell is something all parents want to do. When your child has a diagnosis of autism, holiday hell can come easily.

This is true whether it’s a pod in Padstow, a gite in Gironde or even staying at home.

The fact is children with autism find change overwhelming.  Totally so.  Feeling overwhelmed leads to meltdowns. Meltdowns lead to parental hell.  Some of the pressure of holiday hell can be avoided through using Social Stories.TM

This is a specialist technique developed in the nineties by Carol Gray.

The use of Social StoriesTM is a very specialised way of writing with or without illustrations to explain something that will happen in the future to a child.  These can be easily written by parents.   Writing a story should not be seen as a quick fix, but prepared carefully, a story can lessen a child’s sense of feeling overwhelmed.


For instance, a family plans a holiday to Cornwall. A story written several weeks before the trip begins can provide a secure base and a snippet of the future.  This is soothing to your child.  The story should include your child as it’s central character.  The central character could even be your child’s current role model.

The story should describe the holiday place and what the accommodation will look like. If it seems a bit boring to you, chances are, it will contain sufficient detail to calm your child. (Spending time together on google earth is also a smart tip). The story should include a plan of the activities the family will do, the fun it’ll be and include your child’s desired behaviour.

Done well in advance of the holiday, it will allow your child to develop a mental map of the future. This will remove a large degree of sudden sensory information that often leads to overload.

Remember the three P’s –  Preparation prevents panic!

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist and Chartered Scientist.



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Terror attacks – Helping kids cope

Terror attacks – Helping kids cope

Terror Attacks – Helping kids cope

Reducing the fear of terror with everyday parenting

It is every parent’s nightmare, despite your best attempts, somehow your 6 year old daughter has learnt of the recent terror attack.

She is scared and tearful. She asks you if she or you are going to be hurt by bad people. She tells you there are some ‘mean’ people who want to hurt others.

You don’t want her  innocence to be lost so soon. At the same time, you do want to be truthful. This is a scenario that every parent fears. It is also sadly one we are having to deal with more frequently. What is the best way of handling it? How does a parent explain terror?

The most important thing is and it’s something that most adults forget – A child who has a secure relationship with their parents already has a fortress of containment. This is the best possible starting point for tackling the unpalatable.

Parents view terror and trauma from an adult perspective, through adult eyes. We recognise the ugliness of horror and atrocity. Small children have not yet developed this depth of understanding, thank goodness. Their innocence is also a protection. Unless Children are directly affected by trauma, they don’t recognise it in quite the same way as adults, unless we teach them through our own fear. It’s really important that your children do not see your fear, your rage or your feelings of powerlessness in response to a terror attack. If a child knows their parents are scared, they will be too.

  1. For children a secure and containing relationship with a parent, or another attachment figure is the most important safety feature that protects them from acute fear.

  2.  Explain that there are a few bad people in the world who want to cause harm but that there are many more good people. Fictional characters can often be used as good examples for younger children.  They are often powerful archetypes of strength and character that children can easily relate to.

  3. Tell them the good people in the world outnumber the bad. Point out all the people who your child knows who help others in different ways. These people could be friends, family members, teachers, doctors etc.…

  4. Tell them that they have no need to worry as Mum, Dad, Nanny or another attachment figure will always keep them safe. Explain to them that it is the parents’ job to protect them from the few bad people in the world.

  5. Never provide more information than needed about a horrific situation. Use factual language but avoid the over use of descriptive phrases and pronouns.  It’s correct to say ‘Some people were hurt’. Rather than ‘Some people had their arms  and legs smashed and or crushed’.

  6. Always answer their questions truthfully in a basic age appropriate manner.

  7. Try to find a positive balancing thought to your child’s concern. In the case of the events in Nice a balancing thought would be a) The good and brave people who stepped in to help or b) The doctors who are working round the clock to make the injured better.

  8. The focus here is to help the child balance their nebulous fear of bad people posing a threat in the world with concrete evidence of the certainty of many better people in the world. This will help a child to form a mental representation of safely, particularly a young child where the ability to engage in abstract thinking is not yet developed.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist. Director Christine Tizzard Psychology Limited. Specialist in the assessment and treatment of trauma and related disorders in adults and children.

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