Play Therapy Activity for Play Therapist to Use: Mystery Counseling Session Secret Garden

by Play Therapy Student
(Atlanta, GA)

Play Therapy Technique - Mystery Counseling Session Secret Garden Example

Play Therapy Technique - Mystery Counseling Session Secret Garden Example

When I first received the topic for my play therapy mystery counseling session (Secret Garden), I did not know where to begin. I did know that I wanted to use this assignment as another opportunity to think outside of the box; so, I decided to put myself in the place of a client that could possibly benefit from creating a “secret garden” of their own and the scenario that might bring this need forward – and the rest just kind of flowed.

I imagined working with an eleven year old girl whose parents argue a lot and may be on the verge of a separation or a potential divorce. I used a foam plate, markers, miniatures, some synthetic flowers and a small synthetic tree, cotton balls, construction paper, and pictures that I found online to create this mini world. For me, the sound of water is very calming, so I started out by coloring a flowing river in the middle of the plate and plush grass on both sides of it. I found a picture of this beautiful stone bridge and I decided to incorporate that into the garden. It represented overcoming certain obstacles and moving on to bigger and better things. I knew that I wanted a tree and flowers, so I found some around the house and situated them in the world. It reminded me of a tree house that I used to have because of the multiple levels of branches – very nostalgic and yet still indicative of climbing towards something. I used a cotton ball near the base of my bridge as a possible rock to lie upon and stare into the clouds. I also included hand drawn pictures of butterflies and a ladybug because butterflies symbolize growth and transformation and ladybug was a cute childhood nickname. I placed a "fence" around the world because I figured that the client would want to feel protected from the outside world, but I also left it open because I am sure that sometimes, the client would like to let people in. Lastly, I incorporated the princess (the client) and a frog (a garden friend that she shares her world, her laughter, and her tears with) into the world.

After completing the “secret garden”, I was able to identify closely with the need for this mini world – not only for potential clients but, for myself as well. I envisioned being terrified, angry, and just completely overwhelmed by a situation that was beyond my control and wanting to just get away - where would I want to go? This assignment challenged me to be creative, resourceful, and very empathetic; and I know that it will be a great tool for me to use with my future clients.

P.S. Frogs represent “a potential for change or transformation” as well – go figure =)

For more free ideas on creative therapy visit the link below:

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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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