I use Play Therapy “Sugar Therapy” or taste therapy when a play therapy client, especially a child, is in crisis mode (hysteria, hyperventilation, etc.).
I use this play therapy technique when I get a child, or teen, who is hysterical and cannot process any play therapy. It takes time to move someone out of the "crisis mode" as they are working from the lower part of the brain (reptile brain). Play Therapy cannot happen when someone is working out of this part of the brain.
The play therapist needs to move the client from the reptile brain to the executive functioning part of the brain. It is important that the play therapist address the “crisis feelings” before conducting play therapy utilizing the taste "buds" in therapy.
I have a jar filled with small colorful suckers that I will bring out when a client is in crisis and needs to calm down so that the play therapy can begin.
I use play therapy's “Sugar Therapy”, or taste therapy sparingly, as giving sugar to children may sometimes be controversial.
I also check with the parent at the beginning of taste therapy to make sure I can offer their child sugar from time to time.
This “check-in” with parents is included in my informed consent paperwork given the prior to the first session.
Materials for Play Therapy "Sugar Therapy" Technique :
Suckers or Hard Candy Jar for candy items
Directions for Play Therapy "Sugar Therapy" Technique:
1. If a play therapy client comes into the play therapy session and is hysterical, hyperventilating, or beyond rationalization offer them a sucker or piece of hard candy. I prefer a sucker as the play therapy client can remove the sucker to talk as soon as they begin to calm down.
2. Begin the play therapy session by telling the play therapy client that you will just sit with them while they calm down and focus on eating the sucker. Ask the play therapy client to only think about the sucker and how it tastes at this moment.
3. While the play therapy client is focusing on the sucker ask them to begin to focus on their breathing by breathing from the diaphragm and taking long, deep breaths.
4. Play Therapy “Sugar Therapy” can take anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. Once the client has calmed down and can begin to talk then the therapy can begin and the play therapy client can focus on the situation at hand.
I truly hope that Creative Counseling 101 can open the creative doors for your practice with clients!
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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