If you are a therapist who is treating children and teens, you need to be trained and use play therapy techniques! If you are a parent seeking counseling for your child, or teen, you need to find a play therapist!
Children and teens often face hours of homework each night after going to school all day. Parents often over schedule children with after school activities. School systems have taken play away with little or no recess.
I often have to remind parents to allow their children to have access to unstructured natural play time. I tell my students that their homework from me is to go outside and play for at least thirty minutes.
To be a child in today’s world is simply overwhelming and exhausting. No wonder we are seeing more children with more issues such as depression, anxiety, obesity, and nightmares.
When therapist use the traditional talk therapy with children they are setting the child up for failure before the session even begins.
Therapists who use traditional talk therapy on children are often aligned with society’s attitude that children are small adults.
This is unfair to the child and places a tremendous burden on the child. Children have the right to play whether in a therapy session or in the outside world!
It is up to the therapist, or mental health professional to take the time to seek play therapy training if they are going to take on the responsibility of seeing children in therapy.
As trained professionals we are required to go to our client’s level of need. If we lack the training or competence in an area we then must seek more training and supervision in that area. This is very true with play therapy!
Our clients look to us as the professionals and it is our ethical duty to be trained in the area of need that our clients have.If a therapist is not willing to do this then they need to refer the client to the appropriately trained mental health professional.
Axline (1969) talks about the fact that children under the age of 11 are lacking in the full ability to use reasoning and abstract thought. With play therapy a child can express themselves safely while feeling safe and secure.
Play therapy is a way for children to verbalize their thoughts and feelings in a way they know how to. Play therapy allows a child to feel in control and secure.
The child is already a success when they are given access to play therapy. Play and play therrapy is empowering to children. They do "play" better than most adults.
Play therapy is a win win situation for the child and the therapist. Play therapy also helps children and adults engage in a safe and secure healing process.
In the act of play, a child, or adult can project the unsafe or uncomfortable feelings onto toys such as puppets, dolls, miniatures, etc. Play therapy can speed the therapy process along and is much faster than traditional talk therapy.
Research has shown that play therapy can help a client go through developmental stages that were missed during the child (or adults) life due to trauma, etc.
Play therapy can help the client go to a deeper level of trauma than traditional talk therapy. When we use visual props such as the sand tray and doll house techniques the client can go to the level of “pre-verbal thinking” (Lowenfeld).
This is the “thinking” process that only happens in the lowest part of the brain (reptile brain) and begins at birth. We still go into “pre-verbal thinking” when we have some type of trauma happen to us.
See “Reptile Brain Dysfunction” and “The Human Brain” at www.creativecounseling101.com for more information on pre-verbal thinking. Play therapy is a method of treatment utilizing play and the toys associated with play.
First of all the play therapist needs to be a licensed mental health professional who holds at least a Master’s degree in mental health.
Ideally a play therapist is “registered”, however, not all play therapist are registered. A registered play therapist is a trained professional who has had the required amount of supervision and training in the arena of play therapy. The hours required are quite lengthy, however, they create a well trained professional.
Many mental health professionals will seek training over the course of many years. They are allowed to put “play therapy” on their resume and practice play therapy.
As long as they are seeking training in the area of play therapy this is okay. Play therapist are lifelong learners and continue to learn tools and techniques that will help their clients.
Everyone can benefit from play therapy! Today mental health professionals are finding that clients of all ages respond well to the benefits of play. I used to use play therapy techniques in an adult mental hospital for addiction and psychological disorders.
I found that play therapy helped adults become more creative with problem solving, abstract thought process, and stress reduction. Many of these adults had forgotten how to play, or had never had a chance to play. Some of these patients had thrown their childhood away to drugs and addiction.
Often, these adults had their emotional development frozen in time when the addiction occurred such as 14 years old. Play therapy was the method of choice for a patient, or client, such as this one.
Overall, play therapy is the ideal therapy to help clients of all ages:
- Learn creative ways to solve problems by role playing, art, doll house, puppets, miniature work, and sand tray, in play therapy.
- Learn better ways to handle emotions and express emotions with play therapy.
- Set goals in a realistic way and become more responsible for self, with play therapy.
- Learn to respect and appreciate the self and others with play therapy.
- Learn positive ways to deal with stress and life’s situations with play therapy.
- Grow developmentally and move into abstract ways of thinking with play therapy.
- Reframe negative thoughts and actions to work through problems or past traumas with play therapy.
- Become a happier and healthier person who learns how to bring play into everyday situations with play therapy.
- Explore new ways of being in a safe and secure environment with a trained play therapy professional.
- Learn to use our imaginations if we have forgotten how to use them and utilize better coping skills and methods with play therapy.
I could not be an effective therapist, or school counselor, without my play therapy training.
I never get “stuck” as a therapist because I have play therapy and creativity on my side.
I have learned to bring play therapy into my own personal life and am happier and healthier because of it.
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!
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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