“There is a voice that doesn’t use words, listen” — Rumi
“My teacher has your voice,” five-year-old Jonathan told me. I had been talking to Jonathan in the rhythm of early voice for the last two years, but I had no idea he noticed. He had changed from a child who wouldn’t look at me and barely, rarely spoke into one who could play, relate, and sum up my melody. He is one of the children who inspired this talk.
We all knew another language, once upon a time. The rhythm of dialogue, the language of looking and the music of voice each speak long before words. They go into the background as language as we know it takes hold, but their potential does not disappear. While their echoes play in treatment at all ages, in therapy with young children they actually are the treatment. The early languages open the door to connection and growth. They bring a way to understand a child’s story, the one he is telling through his actions, or she is showing through her gaze. Follow me, one small child at a time, into the journey of discovery that begins when you can speak a child’s language.
Ellen Luborsky, Ph.D., began in the field by doing play therapy in a day care center. She has been in private practice for decades, working with patients of all ages and doing consultations in early childhood settings. She has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from NYU and did psychoanalytic training at the NYU Postdoctoral Program and the Stephen Mitchell Center. She assisted in Daniel Stern’s research lab while he was investigating attunement, a process she applies to her clinical work. Her study of creative writing with Grace Paley inspired her to use stories as a way to share her work. Two of her short-but-true stories about therapy with young children were awarded top prizes by NYSPA. She also assisted her father, Dr Lester Luborsky, with his psychotherapy research, and co-authored Research & Psychotherapy: The Vital Link with him.