Learn the basics of inner child therapy and reconnect with your inner child. This is an important part of being in therapy and being a therapist.
In my play therapy class that I teach at Mercer University, in Atlanta, Ga. I insist that my students reconnect with their inner child before taking the play therapy class.
Many of my students do not remember the overkill of “inner child” therapy back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The work I require my students to do with their personal inner child is often fun and non-threatening. However, sometimes old issues can come to the surface.
Before I show you what I expect of my students in my graduate play therapy class I need to teach you a little bit about the “inner child” theory.
Inner child therapy is an excellent therapy for adults who had a trauma in childhood. Trauma can actually change the development of the brain. If you had a trauma in your childhood chances are that you are somewhat “stuck in childhood” developmentally in some way.
The one thing I know about childhood is that no one escapes unscathed (as the saying goes).
Therefore, everyone can probably benefit with the inner child therapy work. Working with our inner child helps us go back to erase, confront, or deal with the painful memories that have been lurking in the brain since childhood.
We identify fears that we have had for years and learn to love and accept ourselves from an adult perspective. We build upon our fragile self-esteem and learn to comfort ourselves in healthy new ways.
There are some that say that the inner child is our true “self”. It is the small child within all of us that never grew up. Even in adults who had a healthy childhood still have an inner child that still exists within.
Your inner child wants your adult self to give it love, attention, acceptance, and protection. It is fragile and vulnerable. This inner child is playful, fun, and very creative Sounds like the perfect play therapist?).
Many of my students and adult clients have lost touch with their inner child. I saw this quite a bit when I worked with addiction patients at the mental institution.
Many had forgotten how to “play.” I often had to work with these clients to get them to take time to play in a healthy way each and every day.
The first goal for my play therapy students is to reconnect with their inner child. They need to make sure that they accept, love, and nurture their inner child.
I will never forget one client who relearned to build forts in the woods with sticks and pine straw again as an adult after learning to reconnect with her inner child again.
Learning to reconnect with your inner child is very important for a play therapist. If the play therapist has lost touch with their personal inner child then how can they ever be effective as a play therapist?
A good play therapist remembers what it was like to play and knows that it is important to "play" as an adult as well.
Many of us have rejected our own inner child and need to go within to find and then nurture this fragile entity within us. This is a process and takes some time to do.
The goal is to bring out your inner child and learn to love it as a parent loves a child. It is not my intent to get play therapist to act like children. My intent is to start the process with my students (and sometimes clients) to get to know their inner child again.
*Sometimes issues that happened in childhood come up again and it is very painful. Traumas to the inner child might include sexual, physical, and mental abuse.
*One’s childhood fears, neglect, and abandonments, may resurface if they are stuck within. It is very important to note that anyone who is finding that old traumas or issues are resurfacing may need to seek help with a therapist as soon as possible.
If you are studying to become a therapist you need to understand that therapist themselves seek help when it is needed.
If you are open to the exercises below that will reconnect you to your inner child you need to realize that this can be a frightening process.
Several negative and sometimes terrifying feelings can resurface from within. Again, one must be responsible enough to self- monitor and to know when it is time to seek out a therapist for the appropriate help.
While the exercises below are sometimes scary or difficult one must know that in order to grow emotionally it is important to reconnect with your inner child.
Once these lost parts have been acknowledged, accepted, and feel safe you will begin to feel more “whole” and find a sense of joy and happiness that you never felt before.
Each time I have taught the inner child part of the class I am somehow changed in a positive way. I have rediscovered old fears and have gained insight from where they came from.
One example of this is that I hate to buy shoes. I will wear shoes into the ground before going into a shoe store. My entire family knows that I get anxious walking into a shoe store.
The big warehouse shoe stores really terrify me. Since I love to shop for clothes, etc., so, I never understood this fear.
My first and only clue was that I bit a shoe salesman when I was three years old because he was trying to put shoes on me. I then ran down the Sears escalator with my embarrassed mother running after me. I am sure I got quite the spanking after this incident.
I was a very shy and timid child and this aggressive behavior was quite odd to my mother.
One night in my play therapy class my students and I were discussing our inner child fears.
I had just come from a very traumatic excursion with my sister in law.
She had just treated me to my first and last foot pedicure. I did not like anyone touching my feet! I loved getting manicures, but had held off getting a pedicure until my 45th birthday.
Later that night I had a flashback of sorts of my infant self being hurt by someone touching my left foot. The pain was excruciating in the flashback.
I called my mom the next day and she reminded me that I had been born with a left club food.
The memory was of my one year old self and the doctor who had to break my ankle (without pain killers) before putting the cast on. I had to wear the cast for over a year and still have a weak ankle that pops out every now and then.
This all made sense to me that my inner child still had fears due to someone working with my feet and the cast is a representation of “shoes”. I still hate to buy and wear shoes though.
I have had some very positive feelings and experiences come from my own personal inner child work as well.
I have reconnected with many of my childhood activities such as biking, boating, horseback riding, playing in the woods, writing, and art.
As a matter of fact, all of my writings and artwork have come about only after I have reconnected with my inner child. This website and my books would never have happened if it was not for the help of my inner child.
I view this "being" as my creative force within. I could not imagine my life without this incredible force. Sometimes I think of her as a magical little muse or fairy. I make sure I play with her every day.
I have also learned that when I start to experience negative feelings that I am out of touch with my inner child.
I am “healthiest” when I have connected to my amazing inner child.
I hope you will be able to reconnect and spend some time with your amazing inner child as well.
It is worth the effort of the assignment in Lesson 1. Take your time and spend time with your inner child every day. Your life will be changed for the better in ways you cannot imagine if you reconnect with your incredible inner child!
See: The Inner Child Scrapbook link below for ideas on how to reconnect with your inner child.
Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.
*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed mental health professional immediately.
"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.
For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.
Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.
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