Issue 18
Monday, 23 October 2017
Charles Darwin University
CDU psychology lecturer Dr Carmen Cubillo graduated with a PhD. Photo: Julianne Osborne
CDU psychology lecturer Dr Carmen Cubillo graduated with a PhD. Photo: Julianne Osborne

Study shows child therapy needs culture twist

By Ellie Turner

A researcher has used traditional song and dance to connect troubled Northern Territory children to their parents as part of a behaviour therapy program. 

The study by Larrakia woman Dr Carmen Cubillo contributed to the pre-school program “Let’s Start Exploring Together”, run in Darwin and on the Tiwi Islands. 

Dr Cubillo said Australia lacked research and assessment protocols on the differences between Indigenous and Western parenting styles.

“We consulted local families to understand the environmental and cultural conditions in which they operate; we used video to monitor improvement parenting and parent-child attachment during our work on the Tiwi Islands,” she said.

Dr Cubillo is a Clinical Psychology and Play Therapy lecturer at CDU. She recently graduated from CDU with a PhD titled “Understanding Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parenting in the Let’s Start Exploring Together pre-school program”.

Dr Cubillo said many parents involved in Let’s Start had lost the “like” for their child because of behavioural problems.

“Activities were designed for them to have fun together, whether making playdough or collecting objects from the yard for a collage,” she said. “The therapeutic space allowed parents to develop skills that empowered them to manage emotions.”

Dr Cubillo said that increased behaviour control in parents increased attachment and reduced child behaviour problems for Indigenous and non-Indigenous families, which showed a need for early intervention tailored to cultural nuances.