Miniature Work in Play Therapy:
Play Therapy Miniature Definitions:
1. Metaphors: Usually a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a similarity or a resemblance to something.
2. Possibly something used to represent something else such as a feeling or thought such as a symbol.
The language of miniatures and metaphors is one of the most difficult concepts to teach to graduate students in a play therapy class.
Even experienced play therapist often have a difficult time grasping this unique perspective. I have had many therapist write in to me that they need more information and training about miniatures and metaphors.
After working for several years with miniatures and metaphors I tried to find the most simplistic way to teach my students this language.
In my play therapy class with graduate students I usually get blank stares or crazy looks when I start to talk about the language of miniatures.
I open up with my little red devil plastic miniature. I buy several of these at the play therapy conferences each year. I put some in my miniature collection, one in my purse, and one in my house. This little devil represents my “shadow” or “dark side”.
Play therapy students usually can grasp this part of Carl Jung’s Archetypes.
I tell my students that I once denied my dark side and ignored him. He came out a lot because he felt denied and ignored.
I find that after I have done something from my dark side these little red devil miniatures start to show up. They show up in my purse, stick to my clothes, etc. I allow them to just “be” and bring them out. Sometimes they sit on my desk or ride on my mirror in the car.
Yes, my play therapy students think I am actually crazy when I first tell this story.
I also explain that once I got in touch with my dark side I was able to make peace with it and I actually have more control over it.
I am also more congruent with my personality parts because I have learned to accept the negative parts as well as the positive parts.
I have miniatures for many of my “moods” and “feelings”. They are positive, neutral, and negative in nature. Many are on different levels.
For example, my anger can be a baby bear or a big bear miniature. If I am incredibly angry it can be a tiger or a T-Rex miniature.
When we offer this language of miniatures and metaphors to our clients they are able to access the deepest parts of their brain memory banks.
Lowenfeld called this “pre-verbal thinking.” With pre-verbal thinking we go back to our infant self. This is the self that had pictures to identify with feelings and emotions long before we had our verbal language to express ourselves.
If you have worked as a sand tray therapist for any length of time you will automatically understand miniatures and metaphors. However, if you have not been trained as a sand tray therapist it can be a difficult concept to grasp.
Carl Jung’s Archetypes are also excellent training for the use of miniatures and metaphors. However, when you are trying to help a client understand the language of miniatures / metaphors I would not recommend using Archetypes.
This theory can be extremely complex and complicated to clients, especially children. It is helpful to understand Jung’s Archetypes as a therapist. However, I advise that you steer clear of this with your clients unless you are a fully trained Jungian Therapist.
Children will often understand the play therapy language of miniatures and metaphors better than adults. This is due to the age of being closer to the pre-verbal thinking stage of infancy. It is natural for children to use miniatures and metaphors in their play.
Below are some of the play therapy exercises I require my graduate students to use to get them in touch with their pre-verbal thinking. These exercises have been used over the years to translate the language of miniatures and metaphors to students.
If you use these play therapy exercises on yourself you will begin to understand the power of the miniature / metaphor language. I encourage my students to take the miniatures out of the sand tray and create different worlds (different ways of being) with the miniatures.
The play therapy miniature worlds can also be used in the sand tray. However, I find I often go into deeper therapy with a client if we create a world from scratch based on a theme. The client can take the world home and keep it for further self-assessment.
Yes, this is very directive, but can offer a completely new perspective on the inner world of the client. One never gets stuck as a therapist when they offer clients the chance to create different worlds.
I still have my first world that I created with Eliana Gil. I encourage you to keep your worlds and display them in your office.
This can offer several advantages. First, you have a reminder of the world you created and can remember to offer it to clients. Second, clients usually ask what things are.
When you are open to showing your clients you have done the work you ask them to do, clients see you in a more positive light.
My wish is that you will find the benefits of play therapy either as a trained professional play therapist, or play therapy client!
I truly hope that Creative Counseling 101 can open the creative doors for your practice with clients!
More of Understanding Play Therapy Miniatures
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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