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Bragin, M., Bragin, G.K. (2010). Making Meaning Together: Helping Survivors of Violence to Learn at School. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 9:47-67.

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(2010). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 9(2-3):47-67

Making Meaning Together: Helping Survivors of Violence to Learn at School

Martha Bragin, Ph.D. and LCSW and Gideon Karl Bragin, M.P.P.

The deleterious effects on cognitive capacity in children and adolescents who have been exposed to violence at home and in the community have been meticulously documented. What is less well known is how very much these youngsters want to learn at school. Children and adolescents from violent backgrounds, like others, equate education with a hopeful future and are eager to attend. However, when they do go to school, the violence that they experience leaves them terrified to think. Instead they resort to concrete enactments that make completing school work nearly impossible. Attachment based research suggests that thinking about thinking is a neuropsychological capacity that is co-created with caregivers, parents and teachers. People with “reflective function” “mentalize,” that is, they think about what they are thinking and what others might be thinking. This capacity is part of what is lost when caregivers and the surrounding community are replete with random violence. The fact that we know how mentalization is created implies that it may be possible to restore, by creating conditions in the classroom that can foster it. Following an extensive review of psychoanalytic literature and theory, this paper offers a case example of a mentalization based approach to helping children affected by violence to tolerate their affects, survive putting words to experience, begin to mentalize, and through that process, succeed at school.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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