What do I do, as play therapist?
As play therapist I am with the child and join him in his world and experiences. I take responsibility for the safety of the child, myself, and our surrounding, and for the time we have for a session. Within these boundaries the child has the freedom to make his own choices and to take responsibility for them. As play therapist I am witness of and part of the process of the child. With attention, I try to understand as best I can what the child tells me through words, images, play, and behaviour. Through perception and reflection on this and the feelings the child shows, he can become more aware of himself, and of himself in relation to others. Through working with what the child brings to therapy himself, through bringing in true empathy and words, he can process experiences and come to new insights.
As play therapist I have studied children’s development, the different theories and approaches that there are in psychology, theories around play, creativity, and symbolism, and ways of working with these therapeutically. I have also experienced through my training and own therapy what it is like to be ‘client’ and how supportive therapy can be.
What happens for the child?
Play therapy sessions are once a week for 45 minutes at a regular day, time, and place. This consistency is very important for developing a trusting relationship and for the child’s process. Unplanned missed sessions may disrupt the progress.
During a session, the child is able to decide how he wants to use his time. A variety of toys and materials are available in the room, such as art and craft materials, clay, a sandtray, musical instruments, toys for role play, puppets, and storybooks. This range of materials offers children the opportunity to find the best way in which they can express themselves and explore their world. At the same time, it gives them a freedom and responsibility in a safe environment.
Play therapy sessions may be short term (on average 12 sessions). However, when problems are complicated or have persisted for a long time, longer-term therapy may be required.
What happens for parents/carers and referrers?
A parent/carer and child mean so much to each other. They are (usually) a big part of each other’s lives. That is why I believe it is so important to involve parents in the therapy process of their child. Eventually they will move on together too.
Before starting play therapy with a child, there will be an initial meeting with the parents/carers. Following this, we can determine the extent to and way in which we can work together, depending on the questions and issues that there are. Together we can think about what is happening (and has happened) in the life of the child, his family, and surrounding. On the basis of this, we can explore ways that can help the child and his parents. It is helpful too, for me as play therapist, to have as much information as possible about a child. It helps me to understand him and his play better and to attune the work that we do.
Good communication between parents/carers and other adults involved in the child’s life (e.g. teachers) is essential to give him the best support. In meetings we can discuss and attune the approach at home, school, and in the child’s surrounding.