“I’m so glad that Ainsley will finally have someone to talk to about her problems”.
Well what if Ainsley (not a real client!) is four and you as her therapist are going to be doing Child Centered Play Therapy?
AND what if her parents are concerned that you are “just playing” and “not doing the real work” if she isn’t sitting across the room from you, hands crossed articulating every emotion from her week and clearly identifying her cognitions and triggering events and then evaluating her behavioral options?
Along with the help of Andrew and Andres there are 3 things I like to share with parents to help them understand the value (as well as developmentally appropriateness) of Child Centered Play Therapy.
Child Centered Play Therapy is an evidence based practice
The Association for Play Therapy has an excellent Evidence Based Practice statement and tons of research and resources that distinguishes Child Centered Play Therapy as one of the Evidence Based Practices according to the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices!
I like to share with parents that this means that there has been a lot of research that goes into what types of therapy are effective, and that enough academic studies have been completed for Child Centered Play Therapy that we can be sure it is an effective way to help young people heal from the difficulties that bring them into therapy.
Straight talk therapy isn’t developmentally appropriate for children
Children’s brains are amazing and the development that is happening in childhood is so fascinating. If I cut right to the chase (because I could talk about neuroscience and brain development for hours) children don’t have the abstract reasoning abilities and verbal processing skills to engage in talk therapy alone. They are also significantly more right hemisphere developing (which holds their emotions and picture centers) so even if they wanted to they just aren’t able to process as “mini adults”. Because they aren’t….they are children!
Your child will be extremely bored and likely not want to come to therapy if we don’t incorporate play
Okay - see note above that straight talk therapy is developmentally inappropriate for children. Well….. so is physics. If we asked a 4 year old to do complex physics problems (even with an expert like Einstein as her teacher) she would feel overwhelmed, anxious, distressed and probably like a failure.
AND those are the same feelings that will likely come up if we are putting pressure on children to do things that are outside of their scope and ability. And when kids feel like this? Well, the last thing they want to do is come into your therapy office for another 45 minutes to an hour of feeling overwhelmed and like a failure! This leads to kids refusing to come to therapy and, well, if they aren’t in your therapy office they can’t do the work (or serious play) of therapy!
In a recent consultation session one of my consultee's said "I just want to see how Ann does it, like in real life", so I thought you might want to hear how it sounds "in real life" too!
So if you want in - swipe my script and check out this absolutely free short video of how I explain Child Centered Play Therapy to parents in my therapy practice!
AND when I share this information with parents, 99.99% of the time they are absolutely on board and engaged in the Child Centered Play Therapy process!
What else are your biggest struggles with explaining Play Therapy to parents? Drop a comment below!
P.S. Please don't judge the 1,000 tabs I have open. This is my life, literally every day!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.