Let’s Play: An Introduction to Working Therapeutically with Children
Objectives of the Workshop:
“Play under the control of the player gives the child his first and the most crucial opportunity to have the courage to think, to talk and perhaps even be himself.” (Bruner, 1983)
This workshop is an introduction to the principles of counselling children in a person-centred way, and the role of play therapy in encouraging those under 10 years old to safely explore feelings and emotions that cannot be verbalised. In the UK alone there are around 2 million children suffering with some form of mental health problem, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders, and there is a rising level of suicide and emotional and conduct disorders (Sharp & Cowie, 1998). A child may present with emotional or behavioural problems and the underlying causes which impinge include:” loss, especially through bereavement; divorce or separation of parents; domestic violence; bullying; all forms of abuse including physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect; the experience of prison; and the effects of poverty or deprivation, (Prever, 2010).”
Play is the language of a child as they do not have cognitive or language skills to verbally express themselves and it’s how they make sense of their world. Play therapy helps with assisting the building of self-esteem and additionally the lowering of barriers to learning and aspirations. The person-centred approach focusses on children empowering themselves and finding their unique path in a way that is meaningful to them.
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The needs and rights of a child are highlighted and the causes of distress they may have to deal with. In helping distressed children the principles behind play therapy are examined; various methods that may be employed by the therapist; helpful qualities needed in the counsellor; challenges that may be encountered and the role of supervision and self-awareness; and how working with children can inform adult therapeutic work. All work with children is underpinned by a necessary awareness of working ethically and being mindful of safe guarding issues.