Brooke Petersen, LCSW-C serves clients via telehealth throughout the state of Maryland. Brooke earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, and her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She received a post-graduate Adoption Certification from Rutgers University School of Social Work and also completed the TAC ™ training in 2021.

Brooke has over 10 years of clinical experience providing individual, family, and group psychotherapy to youth and their pre and post adoptive/kinship families. She has worked with children, teens, and adults within the school, community, and outpatient settings. Brooke’s experience also includes providing clinical and administrative supervision to a team of Adoption Support Therapists and facilitating case conferences as a Provider Partner for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

Brooke specializes in complicated grief and loss, complex trauma, and attachment. Her therapeutic approach is integrative, collaborative, and holistic with a strong emphasis on client empowerment. She has extensive training in several evidenced-based practices and modalities such as Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Play Therapy, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). She often uses creative and expressive therapeutic interventions such as music, art, sand tray, and play therapy.

 

Spotlight 100x100Brooke’s Therapist Spotlight! Below she shares her expertise with adoptive families:

Q: What is the benefit of incorporating creative therapies and techniques in the treatment of children and adolescents?

A:  When children and adolescents don’t have the words or language to express their emotional experiences, their expression often manifests through behavioral, emotional, and somatic responses. Integrating expressive therapies such as art, play, movement, sand, music, and writing is a great way to engage children and teens and provides an outlet for healthy self-expression. By creating a safe space, individuals can explore and express complex emotions surrounding loss, trauma, and attachment in order to promote healing and growth.

Each creative approach serves its own unique purpose.  Play therapy provides insight into a child’s inner most thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and perceptions of how they view themselves, others, and the world around them.  For example, I worked with a four-year-old child who was separated from his birth parents when he was two-years-old. He presented with anger, defiance, tantrums, and aggression (often towards mom). He complained of stomachaches with no medical explanation. In his play, he threw the baby dolls in the trash, stating “the babies were bad.” Ongoing themes suggested this was a literal representation of how he felt about himself; disposable, unwanted, or worthless. Through the play, he was able to express and make sense of his story. Over time he was able to provide consistent nurturance to the baby dolls and had them adopted into loving families. He began to accept nurturance from his mother and his behaviors and somatic complaints subsided.

When meeting with children and teens who have experienced developmental trauma, I have found integrating expressive therapies and attachment-focused family therapy to be successful in building attachment and self-esteem. Developmental trauma is the result of abandonment, abuse, or neglect that occurs within the first three years of life. This can have a profound effect on different areas of the brain that impacts cognitive, neurological, psychosocial, and attachment development. Early or implicit memories are stored in the limbic system, often referred to as body memories. Even when there isn’t a clear memory attached to an experience, the body remembers. Because this type of trauma occurred in the pre-verbal stage of development, expressive therapies in conjunction with talk therapy helps bridge body memories and narrative.

From a neurobiological perspective, creative expression and positive interactions increase levels of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that helps reduce stress, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increase motivation and attention. This also increases Oxytocin, a feel-good chemical that plays an important role in social bonding, attachment, and generating trust. Activities that incorporate rhythmic synchronized movement such as dancing help calm the central nervous system and stimulate neuropathways in the brain that’s related to the development of learning, social behavior, attachment, and emotional regulation.