Saturday, October 8

The Power of Play

Play is a child's work and this is not a trivial pursuit.
- Alfred Adler, psychologist
Being around play therapists is a great experience that everyone really should try. There are few groups that exude such a great combination of warmth, friendliness, professionalism and passion. They love kids! They love playing! I have received more compliments (on anything from my hair to my Sri Lanka spiel) in the last two days than I had in the previous two years! That's good for the soul.

There is also something really wonderful about being with people who really "get it" about play therapy. The hundreds of folks sitting around me during lectures know how powerful, how logical, how instinctive it is to use play as the form of healing for children. I have never been a good salesperson, so many of my close friends even probably don't really "get" what I do or why I do it. It's refreshing to share that camaraderie.

So let me just say this for all of you who may have wondered (and I've not explained): Children communicate through play. Play is their natural language, their "first language" so to speak (so talk therapy to a child is like asking you to communicate your feelings in Spanish!). Toys are their words. In the environment of a play room, a caring, attentive play therapist reflects the child's (or children's' or adult's or senior's or group's) actions, aligns words to the child's feelings, offers alternatives for maladaptive behavior, models positive behavior and relationship and shows unconditional love and acceptance (unconditional positive regard for Rogerians). It's not just about reenacting a trauma with toys or even acting out one's feelings, it about exploring new ways of coping, thriving, hoping, relating.

It is truly amazing how it really works. Maybe sometime I'll post some examples of how I have seen the play therapy process "do magic". It is a privilege for me to get to be a part of that process with incredible, resilient children. They let me in to their dreams and fantasies, their nightmares and fears, their joy, anger, frustration, loneliness, confusion. I don't take it lightly. It is a gift.

I'll post pictures of the trip and write more about the conference in the days to come!


Jenny said...

Ooooooh. I'm really interested to "hear" more about this topic and, specifically, what you are doing in the field. It sounds fascinating and right in line with things I've been pondering recently about children and people in general. Thanks for sharing and for giving a run down of what play therapy is all about. I'm looking forward to being able to catch up with you and your family in person when we return to the NW!

(and I'm also interested in seeing a picture of your hair and hearing about Sri Lanka...)

kristi w said...

Hey Jenny! Glad to hear from you! I will write more about PT soon. It is something for which I feel pretty passionate.

As for the hair, it looks like it always does, I think. The humid southern air may have it a little bigger and curlier this week! I have tried to remind my collegues from the Sri Lanka trip that, of course we all look better -- we were sweaty, stinky, sleep-deprived & smelled of bug repellent the whole time we were together before!

PapaPeters said...

You know I've taken alot of psyche classes at Cascade something like 15 or 16 upper division credits but I learned more about childrens psyche in the one summer i spent at P.U.M.P. Summer program (with your little tutorial on choice language as my guide) than I did in any classroom. I also would love to learn more on this subject and I see you as the expert on this matter feel free to spout and sale your ideas on this anytime, I will read with great interest...