I have come to understand that when a child (or anyone) is truly “felt” emotionally by another person, there is tremendous healing and growth. Play therapy does not necessarily include a lot of talking as children go about the business of integrating play experiences into their psyche for healing. It is their time and they know what they need! It is pure fantasy, creativity, and FUN!! Please leave your rational mind at the door…
There are, of course, times when kids need specific verbal guidance to alleviate misunderstandings and to practice expressing feelings and needs. I use the training I have had in compassionate communication (Non-violent communication a la Marshall Rosenberg) and of course my extensive training as a Marriage and Family Therapist to facilitate when talking is needed and appropriate. I am also an expert in the Positive Discipline parenting model.
It is very exciting for me to see all the newest brain research pointing to the importance of PLAY for building neural pathways and integration between the thinking and feeling centers of the brain. Through the movement and connection with others that happens during interactive play, our kids develop the qualities of empathy, cooperation, creativity, morality, and joy that will benefit them forever, and will ultimately be the saving grace for our planet as the next generation becomes the leaders of tomorrow!
As a matter of fact, recent brain research shows how important it is to “talk story” with kids, i.e., for adults to be a sort of narrator of the child’s experience so that the child can translate what has happened, moving the information from their feeling centers, the parts of the brain that are most operational during childhood, to a rational understanding within the maturing (rational) parts of the brain (which do not fully develop until around age 25!
In a violent and competitive society, now more than ever we need our children to have the experiences of loving connection and guidance that promote the growth of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for empathy and connection to source. Mindfulness has been shown to be extremely beneficial, and the creative expression and sand tray activities that I do with kids are effective ways to facilitate mindfulness. These experiences put kids into that creative zone, while staying in motion, since mindfulness for kids does not always involve sitting still.
For a fuller understanding of how the brain functions I recommend reading “The Whole Brain Child” by Daniel Seigel. It is an easy read and very informative. It even guides you on how to teach your child about how their brain works.
I have years of experience working with children and I love using sandtray therapy. I also draw kids into the healing process using fun games and fantasy play. Children are very dependably able to heal themselves given the safety, containment, and opportunity to process through play. I have been dubbed “The Kid Whisperer” by colleagues and friends because I have a way of getting into the world of a child, and kids thrive on being seen in that way by an adult!. Because I am an intuitive empath, I can really tune into underlying needs, wounds, and other unseen or unconscious parts, help bring them to the light of awareness, and in so doing start the process of healing.