A child at Avera Behavior Health learns from puppets how to show emotion appropriately.
A lot of people look to therapy to help them work through their problems. Sometimes you need that voice of reason to help you sort it all out. For children who have extreme outbursts and are put in inpatient treatment at Avera Behavior Health in Sioux Falls, sometimes a yellow headed puppet named Rex can be the breakthrough they need.
A puppet show is just one tool used in the Children's Wing at Avera Behavioral Health Center to help kids express themselves. The kids in inpatient treatment are between the ages of 4 and 12 and are typically here because they don't know how to behave correctly. Expression Therapy is one piece in the puzzle in teaching them to make better choices. The children usually stay in treatment for a week or two. Therapists also use play therapy and music therapy to reach the kids on their level.
Michael Jerke an Expression Therapist with Avera says, "We are teaching them it's okay to feel anger it's how you recognize it and how you handle that anger that's important so you don't feel like you are a bad child."
It can be intimidating to meet with a therapist face to face that they've don't know. That's why they bring out puppets to bring out the emotions.
Jerke says, "We don't want them to feel like all they have to do is sit and talk. This is another form of strong therapy to get out feelings and to use energy."
Behind the curtain of the puppet show is Medical Doctor Bryce Gammeter. He's also a psychiatrist in training and has been a professional puppeteer for years. He says children are always receptive to puppets and to the message they are conveying.
Dr. Gammeter says, "They embrace what the puppets have to say because puppets are non-threatening and can discuss things with puppets that they are uncomfortable discussing with friends and family. It's important to remember our children learn by watching. Watching us. What they see us do is what are going to learn to do in their lives. Remember you are a teacher and school is always in session."