How to Do Play Therapy
Play therapy usually begins with a phone call. The parent of the child is distraught. Something has happened to cause the parent to want to send their child to me for play therapy.
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Quite often the catalyst that starts the play therapy search is the school where the child attends. The child’s behavior or grades are an issue. Sometimes it is the child’s behavior at home.
Children tend to act out more at home where they feel the safest. Sometimes they feel safer at school and act out (This is more serious than at home because the child is feeling safer at school than at home!).
The parent usually is struggling with the decision to call a play therapist to do play therapy. It is really hard to admit that your child is not fitting in, or is not acting “normal.”
By the time parents call me for play therapy they are usually in a desperate state.
I have never gotten a call saying, “My child is healthy and I want to offer him / her play therapy as a gift.”
Parents are usually terrified at the first initial phone call for play therapy. Sometimes they do not follow through the first time.
It may take a few phone calls after some major incidents happen with the child to get the parent to bring the child to play therapy.
A play therapist must be patient with this part of the play therapy process. Be patient and kind. They will eventually call you back when things become unbearable.
Parents are dealing with their own issues of feeling inadequate and frustrated. They are usually in shock over the fact that they need to get play therapy for their child.
Old taboos still exist that problems should remain covert and kept to families.
To contact a play therapist is often terrifying and subconsciously admits defeat. Once they get past their “stuff” they will accept that the child needs help in play therapy. Always make sure you call people back, no matter what has happened in the past.
This could lead to future sessions with a play therapy client and lets people know that play therapist are people you can depend upon. I hate hearing stories from parents that therapists don’t call parents back.
In the first phone call I explain to parents or guardians that play therapy is different. I explain that children use play therapy to express themselves.
I tell them that play therapy is a language that children are fluent in. A play therapist is a therapist that is also trained and fluent in this language.
I invite the parent (only the parent / guardian) over for a session overview and also to show them my playroom and play therapy toys.
Before a parent leaves they understand that the toys are my tools that I use when conducting play therapy with their child.
They also know that a lot of play will be going. This is because their child and I will be speaking the "language of play" together.
I also get releases signed, give statements of confidentiality, and also find out who the legal guardian is.
I only deal with the legal guardian of the child in order to keep to ethical and legal guidelines.
Sometimes, I get permission from a release to contact the teachers or school counselors if there are issues in the schools. Always get a release before you ever mention a client’s name to anyone!
For the very first session I might meet with the parents only. I show them the play room and explain some of the activities we might be doing.
I listen to the information the parent wants to share about the child. I take memory jogging notes from the sessions. I get releases signed as well.
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.
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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