Play is the language of children. Play is how children communicate, express, and process the world around them. This is why play therapy is a widely used and important part of children’s counselling around the world.
Play is a natural way for children to express themselves, their thoughts, and their feelings.
In play therapy, children (and adults) can externalize images stored in the right brain. Some images may have been stored in the unconscious because these images may have been overwhelming or traumatic. Play and art help us access these images in our unconscious right brain, externalize them, then put language to the stories created. This process helps to integrate the left brain which can enhance feelings of comfort and resolve. Through their play, children can develop healthy neural pathways and face really tough stuff from a safe psychological distance.
Because the play is small (i.e. we are using toys, figurines, and miniatures) and metaphorical (i.e. the stories children create are often a metaphorical version of what they are experiencing in their lives), this allows the processing of tough stuff to be much more tolerable as it gives children an indirect way to safely process their struggles from a distance.
My work, as a children’s counsellor and play therapist, is to help support children by reflecting on their inner world through their stories, crafts, and art creations. I model self-regulation and I help children gain mastery over how to process their challenges and triumphs in life in healthy ways.
So How Do We Use Art & Play In Children’s Counselling Online?
My approach is child-led and based on teachings from Marie José Dhaese from the Centre for Expressive Therapy. In sessions, I present possibilities for expression and follow the lead of the child I am working with. We have options for coping activities, making art, emotion-focused games, creating stories, and reading emotion-focused books. Through the stories created, we can process the themes that arise in those stories and find ways to problem-solve the challenges that the characters face. Through arts and crafts, we can also express thoughts and feelings. Perhaps music is a way they choose to express themselves. I trust that they know what they need most. I am here to provide a safe non-judgment space to process whatever it is that comes forward through their work.
I created a Virtual Children’s Counselling Space I share with children and families. During sessions, children can visually explore options for activities that are engaging, fun, and interactive.
Children choose, from various resources, to try coping activities before heading into Cozy Cabin where there are resources for arts, crafts, board games, emotion-based educational videos and books, music, digital art, story creator programs, an online dollhouse, and even a virtual sand tray therapy space.
For children and families who are grieving a loss, there is the Remembering Room. This space is filled with art and craft ideas to find ways to continue the important bonds they have with those who are no longer physically present in their lives. There are also many resources on loss that will hopefully help in processing feelings of grief.
At the end of the session we talk about wishes and how not all wishes come true but some do. We talk about how the more realistic a wish is, the more likely it can be to come true. We also talk about how we can also make wishes for others. Then we blow out a virtual candle to make a wish.
Overall, there are 150+ emotion-based clickable resources stored in the Virtual Children’s Counselling Space and new resources will continue to be added to keep the experience fresh and fun.
Beyond the Virtual Children’s Counselling Space, we can draw, paint, make art, do crafts, and create stories with miniatures, stuffed animals, or toys. During these activities, we focus on thoughts and feelings and discover new and healthy ways to express feelings.
I will provide a safe, authentic, and supportive environment. With my knowledge of how to support children, active listening, reflecting skills, and focused attention, combined with your active caregiver participation, we can create change together. My aim is to “pass the torch” to you by showing you as many skills and resources as I can to help support you and your family.
If you would like more information on what an online children’s counselling session would look like with me, check out this video.