Play and Expressive Arts Therapy for Children and Youth...
"What is play therapy?" This is a question I am asked often! It may sound like I am "just playing" with kids, but there is more to it. The best way to explain it is that children under the age of 10 are not quite able to talk and sort through issues verbally as their brain hasn't yet fully developed for this. Instead a play therapist is trained in using the healing powers of play to communicate with and treat chidren. Puppets and other toys provide safe outlets for kids to experience and explore stressors, traumas and other concerns.
For older children and teens, play-based activities and expressive/creative arts can help them open up more comfortably. I often use sand tray therapy as a modality for them to process traumatic and stressful events in a safer way. Since trauma and other negative memories are often stored in our right brain, having a right-brain based activity like sand tray works to help calm and regulate.
Children and teens today face many stressors that can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming for them. Expressive and creative arts therapies may include art techniques, movement, writing and even music. They can be so helpful for these issues- we can even do some of them within family therapy so parents / caregivers can share in this fun yet therapeutic experience!
Another area I am including more in my practice are nature-based activities to incorporate within my play, sand tray and expressive therapies. As we spend more and more time indoors with electronics and less time outside, we are seeing stress and other mental health concerns increase. I truly believe nature is God's way to help us find healing- and research is supporting this concept more all the time. So I endeavor to bring it to my young clients when I can and work with therapeutically as well as encourage them to go outside and play! Since movement is another treatment strategy that can help deal with stress, playing outside is a win-win!
If you have any other questions about my experience or treatment approaches, I am more than happy to talk with you further. You can also explore the website at the Association for Play Therapy at www.a4pt.org to learn more about play therapy. If interested, my journey to becoming a play therapist is included in the second half of the Supervision page.
Various art supplies can be used in expressive art activities from paints and crayons to sand tray and items from nature. At times these may be integrated with play therapy toys, especially by younger children. I will use various amount of structure for our activities depending on the needs and age of the child or adolescent.
Some Pictures of my Office...
There are many opportunities for dramatic play using the puppet theater and puppets, as well as costumes which are kept behind the puppet theater.
I also have many games we can use- some are regular games like Candyland or Sorry that I incorporate a "counselor twist" with. There are also counseling games regarding specific issues like "My Two Homes", "Angry Monster" or "The Talking, Feeling Doing Game" to name a few.