Tokyo, September 6, 2011 – For “Yuriko,” a Japanese mother struggling to help her child overcome fears about another tsunami like the one that hit the island in March, solutions seem hard to come by. But now, through an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) post-trauma program using a huggable plush dog named “Hibuki,” Japanese children and their families will take a step toward healing. Pioneered during the Second Lebanon War to help Israeli children overcome stress and anxiety from rocket attacks, the Hibuki program has recently been expanded to Japan by JDC experts who visited tsunami-affected regions and trained Japanese teachers, nurses and other professionals to use the sad eyed, long armed stuffed animal to “hug” children and talk through their worries.
“By utilizing Japan’s history of doll-play and by helping our Japanese partners tweak the Hibuki program to mesh with local cultural norms, we are working together to ensure that children here find solace in the wake of tragedy,” said Judy Amit, Global Director of JDC’s International Development Program and a clinical psychologist.
The Hibuki program is based on the principle that children who actively face their stress can alleviate fears and better adapt to life after a trauma. The child is told that his/her Hibuki is scared and suffering. By working with the stuffed animal, the child transfers his/her own fears onto the doll and in fact, through the doll, helps “treat” him/herself.
To date, 50,000 Israeli children have been treated using this method and Tel Aviv University professor Avi Sadeh, in a study on the program, has noted the high rates of reduction in post-traumatic responses and distress in children. The Hibuki treatment method was developed by JDC, the Israeli Ministry of Education – Psychological Counseling Service and the Department of Psychology at Tel Aviv University.
image: workshop with tsunami affected children; courtesy