Counselling with Children and Youth – using Play and Art Therapy

Are you experiencing difficult times with your child? Have you lost the joy of parenting?.  Are your children/youth experiencing any of the following challenges:
Sibling rivalry
Oppositional behavior
Trauma (present or historical)
Attachment and bonding issues
Sleep problems
Power struggles

You can discover more in an hour of play than a year of conversation. Plato

Play is the window in which children reveals their inner life; it provides an opportunity which often enables children to express feelings and deal with frustrations and trauma which may otherwise be suppressed. Art and play therapy provide tools to the expression of internal and environmental challenges, communication or stress when words seem to be unable to express the emotion

Image result for art and play therapy

Play and Art Therapy provide a valuable to assist children, youth and sometimes adults another means of expressing difficult emotions. Children who are unable to express themselves verbally because of their stage of development, lack of vocabulary, or insufficient emotive language often respond with enthusiasm, given the proper tools. When assessing pre-school or young children, materials that I have found effective include: doll houses with dolls and furniture, puppets, Play-Doh, miniature dishes, pots and pans, felt board with figures, toy telephones, crayons, markers, and of course, paper. Boys and girls also respond well to road maps and cars, recreating journeys g her or his play. Reframing a situation involving a challenging situation while using puppets, dolls, or felt characters is not uncommon. Older children/youth often communicate more readily when drawing, sketching, or through work with clay and Play-Doh.

Play and art therapy theories allow for integration of:  Analytic theory, Attachment Theory, Trauma, Cognitive Behavioral, Narrative and Anti-Oppressive Practice Theory. These theories allow for the exploration of inner challenges in relation to their environments. An effective therapist can learn a great deal about a child/youth and underlying challenging by using tools common to young people. structure and modify my interventions according to the needs of the child and the level of interaction he/she needs or requests. At times, I assume a non-directive, passive observant role. On other occasions, I am an active participant.

Play Therapy- Let Your Endorphin’s Out To Play:

 When you participate in pleasurable activities like smiling, laughing, exercising or playing, your brain does an amazing thing and releases a little chemical message known as an endorphin. These endorphins are feel good messages that have the power to actually remove physical and emotional pain. They travel down the spine, and then throughout your body, sending a feeling of well being as they go. So do not forget to take time to play each day – it really is important. Do not forget to take time to play – it really is important. From Squidoo Parenting

Most of us have had rituals in our lives as we were growing up and we use them with our children. Did you or your parents say things like good night sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bight or see you later alligator? I love you, see you in the morning is a simple ritual; a ritual of comfort and connection that reminds children we will be there in the morning. We have rituals such as putting napkins on our laps; reading a story at bedtime; holding hands; going to the same cottage; familiar foods at Christmas or Thanksgiving; decorating the Christmas tree while you talk about years gone by or a hug when we are leaving our family. Rituals are different than routines. Rituals draw people together. They connect family and friends; remind us how we are connected over time and honor us by reminding us that we are special, loved, wanted and important. I love you rituals help us to reconnect when we have had a rough time or an emotionally difficult event in our lives. Rituals are important to all families. They are especially helpful to families who are disconnected or stressed by a loss or for children who are separated from their parents through death or marital separation. Children who are becoming a part of a foster family or who have joined a family through adoption can learn about their new families and connect to their new families by learning the family rituals.

These are two of the goals listed in I Love You Rituals by Becky A. Bailey (pg. 7-14):

I Love You Rituals create loving rituals that hold families together even through the roughest times.
I Love You Rituals strengthen the bond between adults and children that insulates children from drugs, violence and peer pressure, laying the foundation for mental and emotional health.
I Love You Rituals can break this cycle by creating spaces in family life where emotional availability is guaranteed. Within this security, resistance, power struggles, and noncompliance are drastically reduced. If you constantly hear your child saying, “I don’t care” or “You can’t make me,” it is time to break the cycle. Move your child to the top of your to do list and make time for I Love You Rituals.
Times when rituals are especially necessary
Stress has been created in the relationship (Deepening the unmet emotional need and the cycle repeats)
The child has an unmet emotional need (feels unloved and unseen)
The child is demanding attention (negative attention is better than none at all).  The child is defensive (Pouting, whining, a “fresh” attitude, or noncompliance)
***An important note: All of the reasons above also apply to adults. When you notice these indicators with the adults around you, you could use rituals to soothe and connect with that adult i.e. a hug, a special hello or goodbye, a ritual that allows that adult to know that you have noticed that they are having a hard time right then.
These are some rituals from I Love You Rituals
Click on the titles to open a description of the ritual.
Self Esteem – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Oppositional Behaviour – Yes and No Game
Separation – Mr. Sun
Transitions and learning to rest – Snuggle Time
Bedtime routine – Good Night Elbow
Being important and “found” – I am Hiding
Self Esteem – What Did You Bring Home Today Attachment – My Hand is Stuck
New Sibling, Adoption – Growing Up
A Safe Place/Time In – Snuggle Up Separation – You’ve Been Gone
Bedtime ritual – Wee Willie Winkie
Please note that many of these activities are also Theraplay® activities. Please refer to my website to learn more about Theraplay®


Counselling and Psychotherapy, Edmonton, AB, Serving Children, Youth, Adults, Couples and Families