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KVC Hospitals

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Brain Strengthening Learning Lab Helps Youth Let Go of Anger

Learning Lab

Tanise Smith from KVC Hospitals discusses the learning labThis winning story was received during our 2016 summer story contest by Tanise Smith, Milieu Manager at KVC Prairie Ridge Children’s Psychiatric Hospital in Kansas City, KS.


At KVC Prairie Ridge, we provide psychiatric treatment for children and teens who are experiencing depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, or other mental and behavioral challenges. These disorders are related to brain development and, sometimes, to the fact that childhood adversity or traumatic experiences interfered with that brain development in the first few years of life. For that reason, we’ve created our own on-site Learning Lab – a fun room where we lead youth through brain strengthening exercises and activities.

For an entire week, I facilitated sessions in the Learning Lab for a group of boys who had long histories of aggressive behavior and anger. I taught them emotion regulation skills so they could identify their feelings, manage their feelings, and increase their brains’ ability to handle stressful situations.

During one session, one of the boys confided in me that he spent a great deal of time feeling sad and angry. The 16-year-old said he had never used coping skills. At the end of group time, the boy approached me and told me how safe he felt every time he entered the Learning Lab. The room smelled nice, comfortable and made him feel better.

The Learning Lab at KVC Hospitals

The Learning Lab

The boy engaged more and more in the group sessions and was eventually able to identify multiple coping skills for his anger. On his last day at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital, he approached me with a huge smile on his face. He said, “Ms. T, this room is the best room ever. I’ve learned so much about myself and how not to give anger power over my brain.”

He thanked me for introducing coping skills to him and helping him understand emotion regulation. From his first day in the Learning Lab to his last day at the hospital, this young man healed and grew stronger. Witnessing this young man’s transformation has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.


Visit www.kvc.org/brain to learn more about how KVC is using the latest brain science to align systems and public policy to make real progress on difficult social issues like poverty, substance abuse, family discord, trauma, and physical and mental health. You can also watch a video about Identifying and Regulating Emotions After Experiencing Childhood Trauma.