By the time parents begin to search for professional help for their child, I believe that they are experiencing two major assaults on their own parenting beliefs:
1. I am no longer a competent parent, able to help or soothe my child;
2. Someone else will understand my child better than I do.
The wonderful aspect about play therapy is the ability to create a safe environment that places everyone on equal, respective footing. The child can express herself through play. The therapist can both role model to the parent how to respond to a child while giving the child permission to explore and illuminate her feelings. The parent can help the therapist understand a child “faster,” and learn a “new language” for helping the child, even when NOT in the playroom.
Play therapy becomes Filial Therapy when the parent enters the play therapy room with their child.
When the therapist has prepared the parent/caretaker to follow the child’s leadings. Before entering the play room, parents are given some “how-to’s” for interacting therapeutically while in the play room. To not make assumptions or determinations about the child’s play. The play room is a safe, secure place where there are NO JUDGMENTS and NO “INAPPROPRIATE” PLAY.
In previous posts, I have referred to Rise Van Fleet’s website for Play Therapy. Here it is again: http://www.play-therapy.com/ Rise has been such a wonderful mentor and is one of the absolute BEST in working with traumatized children, and also in educating and training the rest of us. Please check out her site for an incredible amount of information on all aspects of play therapy.
Because I remain a “kid-in-heart,” I believe that there is MAGIC in using the tenets and structure of play therapy. I also believe that parents/caretakers can be one of the most awesome tools that a play therapist can employ in healing their traumatized children.
If you are invited into the play room, please expect to have some pre-education in how to respond to your child while in the play room. Your therapist can help guide you, but there are times when I have seen parents very hesitant in how to effectively respond. A few key neutral responses are helpful to have before that initial play room experience.
I will work on a Workshop post that will give more details about specific Filial Therapy responses for parents to use in and out of the playroom. The one thing I will caution, please be careful in how you interpret or analyze your child’s play–this is one of the reasons you are seeking professional assistance.
Be gentle with yourself and your child.