Confessions are good for the soul.  They help unburden you from guilt and help you think about solutions.  Well, today I will let you in on a few confessions about play therapy from my own perspective.

But first…Professional Best Practice:

Many play therapists use a model of play therapy called child centered play therapy. What that means is that the child leads and the therapist follows.  It is a non-directive style of play that helps children express feelings in a way that helps them gain insight into their behavior.

And we take it really seriously! It’s really a privilege and a pleasure to have this as a real job!

The “Be With” Attitude:

So, one of the tenets of child centered play therapy is to have a “be with attitude.”  That means that during play sessions, your presence conveys the concepts:

I am here, I hear you.  I understand.  I care.

-Garry Landreth

That is the goal for every child in every session.  Essentially, it’s being fully present and fully engaged with the child during the session.  But let me tell you.  It is HARD.

It’s not hard to do all the time. But it is hard to do all day every day for years upon years. Which leads me to-

NOW…THE CONFESSIONS

1. Sometimes I’m happy when you cancel at the last minute.

And it’s not because I don’t like you or don’t want to help you.  It’s usually because I have administrative stuff to do or because I am just tired from my own family and want to go home early. (But seriously, please show up!)

2. Sometimes I get distracted

And it’s not because I don’t care about your child.  When things get repetitive, people can daydream for a second.  Usually, I just admit it to your child and get back in it. Luckily, kids are pretty forgiving.

3. Play Therapy Is Sometimes Boring

No offense to anyone’s kids!  But, you know as well as I do that listening to a 15 minute story about Minecraft or Pokemon Go or Nerf guns or some YouTube sensation that I have never heard of can be challenging. The upside is that I often learn about some cool newthings from your children!

4. I secretly want to take credit for your successes!

Really, your child is doing the work! And so are you! But, when things are going well, I really want to celebrate and take credit for being a rock star therapist.

5. I get depressed when I can’t help you

I want to see everyone succeed and anything less than that really leaves me burnt out and sad.

6.  When your child says “I have nothing to talk about”

It usually means that they are suicidal or about to runaway or in big trouble with their grades.  It rarely means that they have nothing to talk about.

7. There are days when every child does the same thing

Believe it or not, some days every child that comes in wants to have a sword fight. And sometimes, I get tired of sword fighting.  I think kids feel the same way when they are asked to come straight home from school and do more homework.

The beauty of play therapy is that kids use play to show you how they are feeling.  Some kids are just exhausted.  I feel ya!

8.  I can’t stop buying toys and sand tray miniatures

Everywhere I go I am on the look out for new toys, sand tray figures, games, or books.  Vacations, gift shops, garage sales-I am there and I am buying!

I buy way more stuff than I really need because it a “business expense.”

9. Taking insurance can be a pain

Usually, it’s not a problem. But every once and a while, I have those problem claims that are so frustrating!

10.  I really, really love my job! A LOT

Truly, I love my clients and my colleagues and play therapy.   Having a private practice and helping kids and families really makes me happy.

And I hope you love your job as much as I love mine.  And, I also hope that you can laugh at some of the parts that are sometimes a tiny bit annoying.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Registered Play Therapist, subscribe to the blog for tips and tools related to helping children through play.

If you can relate or know someone who can, be sure to share with a friend! Finding humor in the everyday is the key to self-care!

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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