Children may lack the vocabulary or interest to communicate directly with adults. They often act out their concerns and thoughts through play. It is the therapist’s responsibility to witness, accept, and interpret children’s play for children can communicate profound and serious feelings, thoughts, and experiences. This is especially true of children who have experienced trauma. At times the play and unconditional acceptance by the therapist are healing even if the therapist doesn’t fully understand the symbolism. The therapist must always be careful with interpretations and remain open to changing his/her conclusions.
Working with children may take quite a bit of time as the child must first develop a trusting relationship with the therapist. When that has been established the child’s play may reveal the child’s feelings and point of view. Once that has been communicated, the therapist observes or engages in changes and healing. Each child’s therapy is different in his/her time frame. It is normal to observe steps both forward and backward. As a parent, whenever you observe progress or doubt progress, want to provide information or ask questions make an appointment for yourself without your child present.
Art therapy is a form in which people of all ages express or learn about themselves while being witnessed and accepted unconditionally by the therapist. Typically art therapy refers to the visual arts of painting, drawing, manipulating clay, etc. But art therapy can also be creative movement, dance, music, acting. Jeanine’s experience lies primarily in providing visual arts therapy, however, she is open to other forms, especially if the client has experience expressing him/herself in those ways. The focus in art therapy is not acquiring skills, but rather expressing oneself and perhaps exploring any symbolism contained in the piece. The therapist assists in keeping the client’s inner Critic at bay so free expression can occur.
Sand-play is a Jungian influenced form of therapy in which the client of any age selects miniature representations of all aspects of the world and places them in the sand. The sand is contained in a specific sized blue box, which represents water and the sky. The therapist is a silent witness to the process. A photograph of the tray is taken when it is completed. Interpretation takes place after a series of trays have been completed. Symbolic play creates a dialogue between the unconscious and the conscious mind. The combination of earth and water (some trays include wet sand) allows the playful and creative and imaginative energies to unfold. In some ways, sand-play is like a waking dream, which is full of the psyche’s guiding messages.