As a play therapist, 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.
In the second session I usually meet the child. The parents have already been instructed that they will bring the child into the play room for the first session.
Parents have been told that play therapy does not start until the parents leave the room.
I ask the parents to stay for about ten minutes to help the child feel safe. Most of the time, the toys do the work for me and the child is okay with staying in the play room.
However, there will sometimes be a child that does not feel safe. In severe cases I have cut the session short and asked the parent to take the child home and come back another day.
Children should never be forced, yet the therapist should keep trying to begin therapy. Therapist need to have a positive attitude that they will be able to start therapy... at some point.
Parents should be instructed that the separation process with children should be positive and quick when starting play therapy.
It can be suggested that the parent give the child a personal item such as a scarf or watch. The child can then take this into the playroom. The watch also helps as one can show the child the amount of time they will spend in the playroom.
I have had children agree to do a ten minute session then check in to see that the parent is waiting outside of the play therapy playroom. Then the child will continue to go back to do play therapy with the therapist.
The child can also choose to bring a toy, or stuffed animal, of their own into the playroom. However, toys that belong in the play room are for everyone and should not be removed from the playroom.
Children expect the play therapy room to look the same each time, so toys must stay in the play therapy play room.
Never grab or force a child into the play therapy play room. A play therapist can offer a hand to hold and walk back to the play therapy room.
Forcing and grabbing children will damage your relationship with the child and is not safe, ethical, or appropriate. It is up to the parent to pick the child up and take them to the play therapy play room.
I am trained in restraint and carrying children, but refuse to do it unless it is a severe safety emergency.
Once we get the play therapy session started I go into my non-directive play therapy mode. I find that I use both directive (where I direct where therapy is going) and non-directive intermittently.
I am more non-directive at first with my play therapy clients than at the middle or end of the play therapy sessions.
As I am utilizing non-directive therapy at the beginning I am building up a rapport with my client. I am assessing what is going on, watching the child play, and listening to what the child is saying in words and body language.
I follow the child around the play therapy room while they ask questions and chose what they want to play with. I am in the process of learning all about my client.
After a few sessions I now understand the needs of my client a little bit better. This is when I introduce my “direct play therapy” mode to the client.
As the trained therapist I know what tools I possess to assist the child in play therapy to encourage growth and healing. My clients do not possess the knowledge or tools that I have.
Therefore, it is essential that sometimes I am direct in my play therapy sessions with clients.
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