How often do you ask clients to identify feelings and get met with “I don’t know”?
Or the ever popular “nothing”.
For most types of therapy and play therapy including Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy, Child Centered Play Therapy and EMDR a core part of the process is to help kids know themselves better, identify their feelings, and work to notice where these feelings come up in their bodies.
In a theory like Child Centered Play Therapy we do this through the facilitative skills of reflecting feelings OR if we are in the role of a character we may track feelings or sensations within the role.
But for other theories like CBPT or EMDR - the work is more direct! We are asking questions, giving examples, playing games, telling stories, and creating Sand Trays.
I wanted to give you another play therapy technique and tool for your toolbox in your emotional regulation work with children! Check out thisFREE Download of Experiential Nervous System States Photo Prompts!
Thisfree play therapy download has 30 photos that are meant to bring up a wide array of feelings, nervous system states, and emotions.
With this download first things first you do need to hit print and cut out the pictures so clients can see one picture at a time. If you are virtual you can zoom in so one picture is present on the screen at once.
Ohh…and I LOVE a good laminated tool so I would definitely suggest laminating these for durability.
Next, you can instruct kids and teens to take a deep breath and spend a period of time taking in each photo. The exact time doesn’t matter really, it’s just to help kids take in the photos completely without rushing. For some clients 10 seconds would be their max and others may be able to do a minute or two.
Next, ask your client what feelings came up in their body, where the location of the sensations were, and what were the accompanying thoughts.
These photos bring up a rainbow of emotions and sensations from happy, freedom, and joyful to depressed, anxious, scared, lonely, grossed out (nothing too gross I promise!), and angry.
Because these photos are not about the client’s themselves it is often a safer way to explore the process of emotional experience.
If you are really into Polyvagal Theory (then you need to check out this training HERE!) you can either have clients sort photos into nervous system states (ventral vagal, sympathetic (fight/flight), and dorsal vagal collapse) or choose one photo from the bank (or one they find on their own) to match with their experience of nervous system states.
Grab your free copy of this play therapy technique HERE!
I also trust your clinical judgement and intuition of what photos to include and if there are some clients that may benefit from having specific photos left out - AND I also would challenge you to start selecting your own images that are tailored to your practice to add to your collection!
AND if you want tons more play therapy tools and techniques to use with kids around exploring feelings and emotional regulation (that are backed by science) check out my training Keep Calm and Regulate On: Play Therapy and the Neuroscience of Emotional Regulation!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,