One of my central objectives for the child in therapy is to enhance the child’s awareness of his/her own process in the present moment. ‘Process’ can be defined as: who they are, what emotions they reveal, what they like and do not like, what their needs are, what behaviour they reveal and how they reveal this. Through raising this awareness in the here and now, the child will be able to get back into contact with his own emotions, body, and his natural ability to cope with life. The child can discover that choices regarding emotional expression and needs satisfaction can be made. In this way the child learns to be self-supporting by taking responsibility for him/herself.
I also strongly believe in the role of the family in a child’s healing process. A child’s so-called ‘problem’ behaviour is often a symptom or a reflection of what is going on in the family and therefore forms part of the social context of the family. In most families the dynamics between family members are complex. It is therefore extremely important to establish a working alliance between all members of the child’s family so that the child can have the optimum in a support structure. When everyone in the family works together, healing is much faster and stronger.
Before the Art-making & Play Therapy Sessions
In the beginning, it is vitally important that as a parent, you prepare your child for therapy, by being completely clear and open about what is going to happen and why your child is coming in for sessions. Let your child know well in advance, at least a week ahead of time and be sure to answer all of your child’s questions clearly and age-appropriately.
During the Art-making & Play Therapy Sessions
In art-making and play therapy, the focus is on the child and through the use of these modalities the child’s feelings and experiences emerge, which can then be faced, explored, controlled, accepted and resolved in a safe environment. Emotional conflicts are projected into the play which enables the child to confront fears indirectly, thereby maintaining a safe distance. The child can therefore have the experience of being accepted as is, as well as have the experience of receiving active empathetic understanding, warmth and security from the therapist, which allows the child to feel respected and validated. This process not only empowers the child, but also increases self-awareness and the ability to adopt healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Ultimately the aim is for the child to become self-supportive and self-empowered enough to experiment with new, positive behaviours.
The child may select the toys or activities that they wish to use and at times I may select certain activities, depending on the needs of each child. I often join in the child’s play with the permission of the child.
Mediums used during the Art-making and Play Therapy sessions
There is a never-ending variety of mediums that can be used with children in therapy. Some of these include various games and toys, any art-making medium (for eg paint, crayons, collage materials, glitter), puppets, sand trays, clay, stories, musical instruments, movement and role-play or any other medium that will help children express themselves comfortably.