Flushing & Erasing: Techniques to Reduce Fear in Young Traumatized Children

© Nancy Davis, Ph.D.
2003

Flushing and Erasing are techniques that can help to decrease fear in a young child of an abuser or some other scary person. These techniques are not to be used when the abuser is a parent and the child must continue to interact with that parent. They should only be used when the child is safe and can not be hurt or abused again by this abuser or the scary figure. They are techniques to reduce inappropriate fear, not to interfere with appropriate fear.

Flushing:

1. Have the child draw the abuser/scary person. If he/she is too afraid to draw the abuser/scary person, the therapist, teacher or parent should draw the abuser/scary person. When the child is too afraid to draw, ask the child how the abuser/scary person should be drawn. (“He has horns and big teeth and mean eyes”)

2. Have the child stomp on the picture of the abuser/scary person. The therapist or other helper should also stomp on the picture. If the child is too afraid of the abuser/scary person to do this, the therapist or other helper should demonstrate the stomping. The therapist or other helper asks the child to say everything that he/she would like to say to the abuser/scary person, giving suggestions such as: “I’m not afraid of you any more”, “I am going to testify against you because you hurt me”, “I hate you”, “I am not going to let you ruin my sleep any more because I am not going to have any more nightmares about you”.

3. The therapist or other helper and the child tear up the picture into very small pieces, making sure to keep all pieces together.

4. The therapist or other helper and the child take the picture into the bathroom. The therapist or other helper directs the child to put all the pieces of the picture into the toilet and flush it, saying something to help him/her reduce fear and help him/her feel powerful, such as, “You are out of my life; I am not going to let you hurt me ever again.” If the therapist or other helper is not the same sex as the child, an adult of the same sex can accompany the child into the bathroom, or accompany the therapist or teacher.

5. If used by a therapist, he/she explains the technique to the parent so that the child can repeat this technique, at home, as often as necessary to reduce his/her fears.

Erasing:

1. The child is directed to draw the abuser/scary person on a black board or other erasable board.

2. The child is directed to say everything he/she wishes to say to the abuser/scary person.

3. The child erases the abuser/scary person from the board, saying something to help him/her reduce fear and feel powerful, “You are out of my life; I am not going to have nightmares about you anymore”.