Huggy Puppy Ukraine

In Ukraine, more than 4.8 of the 7.5 million children have had to leave their homes since the start of the war. Some of them – usually together with their mothers – have found refuge in Germany and other countries, but the majority of children are still living in the crisis areas. In Odessa, too, there are repeated bombings and prolonged power cuts as a result of attacks on the infrastructure. This also has an impact on the children’s lives: school lessons can only take place irregularly, leisure activities and social contact with peers are very limited and regular air raids are part of everyday life. Under these conditions of constant threat, the prevention and treatment of trauma-related disorders is a challenge for professionals.

The “Huggy Puppy” trauma therapy project uses a relatively new method that has been tested for its effectiveness in initial scientific studies. Children with traumatizing experiences of war are given a teddy bear. Together with a psychological specialist, a life story of the teddy bear is developed with the child that is as close as possible to the child’s own experiences of war and flight. The children are encouraged to project their feelings and fears onto a cuddly toy so that they can then better regulate them through caring behavior. In addition, the child’s attention is repeatedly directed away from experiencing their own problems and towards solution-oriented care of the cuddly toy.

As a study has shown that the low-threshold brief intervention “Huggy Puppy” was able to reduce emotional stress and behavioral problems as trauma-related symptoms in children aged 2 to 7, we are currently supporting the children’s center in Odessa in implementing this treatment method with a generous donation of teddy bears and resources for therapists. This is accompanied by a very close professional exchange as well as an evaluation of the course of therapy. According to feedback from our Ukrainian colleagues, the families respond very well to this form of therapy. Further experience reports will follow.