If your children are very young, say 3-8 years old, we will do play therapy. Play therapy allows young children to act out or demonstrate feelings and perceptions for which they do not have mature language. The relationship itself creates a feeling of security that allows them to express more of what they are experiencing in their world. Playing about their worries helps children understand and feel more in control of their lives. For example, just being able to draw or play out with dolls in a way that reflects their unspoken experiences, within the safety of the therapy relationship,often gives them a greater sense of self-control. Behavior problems often begin to disappear on their own, especially as children learn the language that expresses their feelings. This gives them a greater sense of power and order in their lives. And parents, I will also work with you on ways you can help and guide your child at home.
Older children often enjoy working on arts and crafts as we talk together about the challenges they are working on. In addition to giving them a good outlet for their feelings, keeping their hands busy seems to release them from shyness and help them to talk more about their feelings and problems. I find they are more open to problem-solving when they are doing something enjoyable. Emotional release, increased self-awareness, cognitive work, and behavior therapy are woven into the conversation and planning. There are so many fun and creative therapeutic activities for children that can make a real difference in the way they think about themselves and how they interact with others. It’s great to see kids actually looking forward to their counseling appointments!
And some children simply want to “sit and talk” with someone safe and private, just for them. I pay attention to what helps your children feel most comfortable and open and then adapt the treatment accordingly. Just “thinking out loud” with a trusted therapist helps children (and teens and adults!) find language for feelings and problems. Finding ways to talk about the problems opens the door to practicing new ways of dealing with them. Giving your child tools and coping skills for better self esteem and interaction in the world is incredibly good for your child’s long-term development.