I often advise my clients to seek out counselors for their children to help them adjust to the divorce process. During the divorce, children experience a wide variety of emotions and sometimes are not certain of how to process their emotions. Play therapy is a technique utilized commonly by counselors when engaging children of divorcing or divorced parents. In the below guest post, Rachel Rucker, M.A., NCC, LPC, explains some commonly asked questions regarding play therapy.
WHAT IS PLAY THERAPY?
- Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults.
- Children don’t always have the ability to express themselves with words.
- Play therapy allows children to communicate through play, their most natural form of expression.
- The toys the children use in play therapy help them play out what they may be feeling, what they have experienced, and what they would like to be different.
WHY DOES MY CHILD NEED PLAY THERAPY?
- Difficulties at home, in school, divorce/separation, etc.
- Witnessing or experiencing abuse.
- Problematic behaviors (anger outbursts, withdrawn, mood swings, etc.)
- Not getting help now can lead to greater problems for you and your child later on.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM PLAY THERAPY?
- During the therapy time, every thought, feeling, and most actions of the child are accepted within consistent, clearly defined limits.
- There is no such thing as “wrong” or “bad” behavior in play therapy.
- The therapist will not “pump” the child for information about their life or an abusive incident.
- Children are allowed to work through their problems at their own pace.
- Play therapy can be messy. Please dress your child in play clothes.
It is important to know that working through these experiences in play therapy, while necessary, can be painful and emotional. It is therefore normal for children to display an increase in acting out behaviors at various times throughout their play therapy.
WHAT TO TELL YOUR CHILD ABOUT PLAY THERAPY
- Say that they will be coming to a safe playroom with a grown-up named _______.
- Say something like, “When things are difficult for you at home, school, in the family, etc., sometimes it helps to have a safe place to play.”
- You may also tell them that it is OK to talk about those things in the playroom.
- Please never tell your child that he or she has to talk.
BEFORE AND AFTER EACH SESSION
- Please do not tell your child to have “fun” or to be “good” when the session is to begin.
- Please do not ask your child what he or she played with or talked about when the session has ended. It is important that your child does not feel the need to give an account of what happens in the play therapy room.
- If your child brings artwork from the session, simply comment on the colors they used or what you see. “You covered the whole page with blue, red, and black.” Hidden meanings may be present in artwork, so it is best not to offer praise (“How pretty!”) or to criticize (“That’s not the way to draw it”), or ask questions (“Who is that?”, “What did you draw”)
If you are interested in learning more about play therapy or counseling services, Rachel T. Rucker can be contacted at:
Rachel T. Rucker Counseling Services, L.L.C.
Rachel T. Rucker, M.A., NCC, LPC
700 Papworth, Suite 202
Metairie, Louisiana 70005