All Kinds of News for September 14, 2016
Jason McKeown, MS, LMFT, CPE, DCC, Family Clinical Director at Trails Carolina, is conducting a study exploring the therapeutic value of objects. Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for teens ages 10-17, recently supported McKeown’s research into the therapeutic value of objects. McKeown leads Trails Carolina’s innovative family programming, helping families along a path towards rebuilding healthier, happier relationships.
McKeown is working alongside Brenda Cowan, Associate Professor of Exhibition Design at SUNY/FIT and Ross Laird, PhD, Interdisciplinary Creative Process, MA, Counseling Psychology, to define and examine the psychological underpinnings of the intrinsic relationships between people and objects.
At Trails Carolina, objects are often used as a therapeutic tool to help students heal. This research offers new insight into the therapeutic effect objects can have for teens struggling with grief and trauma. McKeown and Cowan have been working on this research since 2015. The initial phase of their research involved observing the ways in which Trails Carolina uses object-based therapeutic practices throughout the program.
The observations made in that initial phase have led to the current research which is titled “Psychotherapeutic Object Dynamic Research Case Study”. The current research involves a case study interviewing eleven individuals who had donated objects to the September 11th Memorial in New York City.
The case study explored the psychotherapeutic benefits of the participation of the object donors in the institution’s acquisitions, the personal identification of the donors with their donated objects, and the psychological experience of the donors through the process of donation.
Participants included five widows, three survivors (including one who also lost a husband and one who lost a cousin), one mother who lost a son, one first responder, and one on-location journalist.
According to McKeown, each participant’s story was unique. Many of the survivors interviewed, including the first responder, chose to donate something related to that day like their triage badge or their clothes to be a representation of what that day was like.
Widows or those who lost a family member usually donated an object belonging to a deceased family member that was best representative of their role within the World Trade Center. Parents who lost a child on 9/11 typically donated objects that represented their child’s personality and interests.
“For many people, giving the object away was helpful in a variety of ways,” says McKeown. “Some felt like giving the object away would help people remember the event or the person that was lost. For some, there was something meaningful and powerful in the act of parting with the object. We called this an ‘unburdening’ of the object. Others felt like they could use that object to tell a story that people needed to hear.”
McKeown, Cowan and Laird plan on continuing their research around the use of objects in a therapeutic setting.
“As we continue to define our theory, we will look into new ways of expanding the therapeutic use of objects throughout a student’s time at Trails,” commented McKeown.
About Trails Carolina
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based just outside of Asheville, North Carolina that offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy model to troubled adolescents, ages 10-17. Trails capitalizes upon the profound effects of a student’s wilderness experience, and then combines that experience with strong clinical assessments and therapy.