The Use of Play in Therapy

playDr Fiona Zandt has written the below article on the importance of play in therapy. Dr Fiona Zandt and Dr Suzanne Barrett, authors of Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings, are clinical psychologists who currently work in successful private practices in Melbourne. They each have over 15 years’ experience working with children and families. 

Connecting families with wool – Why play is so important when working therapeutically with children

A therapist recently described using an activity from our book that involves using wool to connect family members to make visible the ways in which their feelings and actions impact upon each other. Following the session the child who was being brought to therapy articulated some of what she had learnt to her Mum. She said that she now knew that if she died, everyone would be really sad, and that not everything was her fault. Her comments reflected some key messages that the therapist wanted to convey – namely that she was part of a family who cared about her and were all being affected by the difficulties they were experiencing. Blame was removed and the responsibility for change was shared, laying the foundation for the therapist to work effectively with both the parents and the child.

Continue reading

Read an extract from Shelly Newstead’s ‘The Busker’s Guide to Risk, Second Edition’

Newstead-Thread_Buskers-Guide-t_978-1-84905-682-3_colourjpg-printWelcome to the second edition of The Busker’s Guide to Risk – and for those of you who are used to these little books by now, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that starting off with a few jokes is not at all out of keeping… so here goes…

Have you heard the one about the children who were banned from making daisy chains in case they ate them?

Or the school that stopped doing egg and spoon races in case a child dropped an egg and then turned out to be allergic to it?

Or what about the children who weren’t allowed to play with cardboard boxes because they were a fire risk? (The boxes, that is, not the children… although any day now…!)

Laugh out loud?  Well, I would- if any of those were actually jokes- you know, like those urban myths that get passed around and exaggerated with every re-telling… But here’s the punchline- they’re not.  All of those seemingly ludicrous things have really happened- to children whom you and I know, up down the UK, in a neighbourhood near you- all in the name of health and safety.

The Busker’s Guide to Risk is part of the Busker’s Guide series for adults who work where children play.  Each Busker’s Guide provides succinct and down to earth introductions to key areas of theory and practice.  Written in a light-hearted style and illustrated with witty cartoons, Busker’s Guides are accessible to practitioners working in a wide range of settings.

>>Click here to download the extract<<


Moon BalloonAuthor Joan Drescher, A Journey in the Moon Balloon: When Images Speak Louder than Words, shares highlights from her home in Hingham, Massachussets after a wonderful trip to the 2015 International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Continue reading

Incorporating creativity in supervision

Chesner-Zografo_Creative-Superv_978-1-84905-316-7_colourjpg-print Anna Chesner, co-author of Creative Supervision Across Modalities, explains why using creativity in supervision sessions can benefit both the supervisor and supervisee, and gives her top tips for any therapist or helping professional new to using this approach.

Why is the use of creativity so effective in supervision sessions?
Creativity helps to link right brain and left brain understanding of practice. Often as practitioners we may have a feeling of stuckness, or going round in circles. Using creative methods helps us to facilitate new perspectives and fresh energy.

How can creative supervision ensure that a fresh perspective is maintained in supervision sessions, and how does this benefit the supervisor and supervisee?
Creative supervision can bring a new perspective and fresh energy to reflecting on our clinical or other professional practice. This in term can bring fresh energy and clarity to our sessions with clients. If supervision itself lacks vitality it may become part of the problem, rather than facilitating possible solutions.

In chapters 2 and 3 of your new book you write about the importance of roles in creative supervision – why is this? Which of the roles you mention do you think it is most difficult for a new supervisor to take on? Is there one that they tend to slip into more easily?
Not so much roles as an understanding of role (singular). The concept of role helps us to think about our “way of being” and our clients’ way of being. It is a practical tool for looking at patterns of behaviour and relating. Supervisor’s need an awareness of the multiple roles they may inhabit as a supervisor, and in the best case some role flexibility. Similarly, practitioners from all fields can benefit from thinking about their own roles in their practice, and indeed the roles of their clients within their various systems.

What is the most challenging thing you have to cover with trainee supervisors? What is it that they usually struggle most with in terms of incorporating creativity into sessions?
Supervision trainees have firstly to meet the challenge of getting to grips with the role of supervisor, which is distinct from their more familiar roles as clinician. There is an added challenge in learning how to use creative techniques in a way that is a spontaneous response to the supervisory question or focus and remains firmly within the frame of supervision.

Why is it that ‘irrational’ thinking can be such a crucial part of the creative process?
Not so much irrational as out of awareness, or known only implicitly. Face to face clinical work involves the practitioner in complex, multi-layered interactions, where physical or felt sense, and imagination are as important as the actual words spoken. Our right brain awareness can be brought to light particularly well through creative approaches to supervision.

You mention several times the importance of establishing a clear focus in the supervisory session – why is this?
A clear focus or supervisory question is helpful for a number of reasons. It ensures transparency about what kind of help or reflection opportunity is being sought. It supports a collaborative approach between supervisor and supervisee. It reveals the level at which a supervisee is able to reflect on and articulate their process.

What are the top tips you would give to a supervisor who is new to using creativity in their sessions?
– Reflect on your own interventions in the light of supervision theory
– Bring your creative supervision practice to your own supervision space
– Remain open to new learning
– Undertake training in the use of creative supervision methods


Creative therapists: How to be your own boss

Mikel_Art-of-Business_978-1-84905-950-3_colourjpg-webIn this extract from The Art of Business, author Emery Hurst Mikel takes a step-by-step look at the process of marketing yourself as a self-employed creative therapist, giving top hints and tips based on her own wealth of experience with this flexible way of working.

Read the extract here


VIDEO: ‘The Funshop’ – John Killick using playfulness in dementia

John Killick demonstrates some of the playfulness techniques showcased in his new book, Playfulness and Dementia: A Practice Guide in the video below.

Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester says:

“This book tickled my fancy. Just as many lonely hearts advertisements specify a GSOH as their top priority in a soulmate, I would specify the same requirement for those providing support and care to me and my family. This is not to trivialise the experience of living with dementia, but rather a recognition that laughter can help us through the most difficult places. This book is full of ways to connect people through fun. There is nothing disrespectful or silly about the words in this book. It is full of compassion and honesty. It will supply you with a springboard to joy.”

Watch Playfulness and Dementia in action:


Being Seriously Playful: Sandplay Therapy With Adults

By Lenore F. Steinhardt, author of the forthcoming book On Becoming a Jungian Sandplay Therapist: The Healing Spirit of Sandplay in Nature and in Therapy.

We live in a time of rapid transitions. The norms of fifty years ago concerning gender and parent roles have changed: men cook and care for children, women work in technological fields and direct companies. As well, children are informed about the world instantaneously from computers, and smartphones,which may cause a change in the roles of today’s parents and teachers.

There have been changes in the therapeutic milieu as well. Both children and adults attend various group expressive therapies as well as individual therapy. There is also much interest today in C.G.Jung’s wide concept of the psyche, that includes the inherited archetypes of the collective unconscious, as well as the personal unconscious (described by Freud), and consciousness. Among the major archetypes (Mother, Father, Child, Hero and Self) the Divine Child archetype has been popularly called the ‘inner child”, that part of us that we need for new beginnings, growth and creativity.

In sandplay therapy it becomes activated and urges us to play, be creative, discover and invent spontaneously with sand and miniatures. It also provides symbolic access to parts of our psyche that we have long forgotten- some may prove useful in solving problems, and in choosing new life directions, and some may help to identify difficult life events that we may have forgotten, but that continue to prevent development. Sandplay works with the entire psyche. This means that through symbolization with objects, sand and water, a person can gradually acknowledge in symbolic form, both problems and inner sources of strength. Jung noted on himself that the child within can find solutions to problems through play that the rational mind cannot access.

Today’s adults are more able to accept their “inner child” and their need for non-directive spontaneous play. What at first seemed “childish” becomes “childlike” and very moving. Often an adult begins Sandplay with a rational approach, choosing objects and moving the hands in the sand according to a preformed idea. But at a certain point play will also evoke early memories of spontaneous play, and the sandplayer will transition to a freer symbolic play.

Some important points for adults who do Sandplay are:

1. to relax and accept that there is an inner source of creativity, curiosity, discovery and new directions that has its own volition and is not connected to rational thinking.

2.  to relax and accept that there is an “inner guide” (sometimes called intuition) that accesses new images that may be at once strange and familiar, that we don’t need to interpret.

3. to relax and accept that there is a felt sense in the body while doing the work, that does not need to be explained, rationalized, justified, or understood. This may lead to enjoyment, or one may be swept into expressing something that is painful, but that wants to be seen and understood, at least in symbolic form.

4. to relax and accept that answers are within us, and that we are larger than we know, and have much more unknown depth and potential than we are aware of.

5. to relax and accept that there are wounded inner structures that can be changed and healed in Sandplay, without rational understanding. With less energy needed to suppress memory of difficult events, more energy is available for positive change in daily life. Decisions will be better based on real needs, actual potential, and be more productive or satisfying.

6. Sandplay can also be visually beautiful. The sense of creating something beautiful, feeling the artist in oneself, is life affirming, and can carry over into feeling self-assured in other areas of one’s life.

Play Therapy Dimensions Model book launch

May 24th, 2012 saw the book launch of the Play Therapy Dimensions Model: A Decision-Making Guide for Integrative Play Therapists  by Lorri Yasenik and Ken Gardner, held at Giuseppie’s restaurant in Alberta, Canada.

“It was a well-attended event with wonderful Italian food, wine and a great Jazz band! The focus of the evening was one of celebration of children.”

See the article and photos from the event here:

Using sandtray play to enrich the learning experience

In this illuminating interview, Sheila Dorothy Smith – author of the new book, Sandtray Play and Storymaking – discusses sandtray play with a teacher colleague who is interested in using this innovative approach with her elementary school classes.

Teacher: I see that you use play with students from Kindergarten to Grade Seven. I wonder, though, how I would justify it for a student after very early primary age, given the amount of curriculum that needs to be covered.

Sheila: In sandtray play, students build worlds in the sand. Then they want to make a story about it. And tell it. And write it down. So they want to learn the literacy skills that are our job to teach. As teachers, then, we ‘work smarter not harder’ by working with the child’s creativity and desire. Not only its invitation to imagination, but also the fact that it is ‘hands-on’ makes sandtray play effective at all ages. The sensorimotor, the kinasethetic, learning through doing – this is critically important for disengaged students as they progress through later elementary school.

Teacher: We have to show accountability in province-wide testing at the same time that large numbers of students are showing severe emotional/behavioural problems. So I am interested that your title says that the technique develops social and emotional skills along with the academic.

Sheila: You have described very well what our challenge in the schools is. How do you teach academics to kids whose brains are flooded with emotional concerns? Certainly the sandtray can be used within social skills groups in a directed way within a withdrawal setting and the book talks about this. But for me, the most gratifying experience is derived from the fact that children are able to do social and emotional work right in class at the very heart of their academic work in literacy learning.

Teacher: How so?

Sheila: Because of the freedom and sense of safety in the sandtray, children often return to the same story line and work it out over time, both without words (in the sand) and with words (in the stories about the worlds they make in the tray). Aggression, loss, sadness, conflict, hope, struggle – all these can be shown in the sandtray and expressed in the narrative. The emotional work is embedded in the academic work of oral and written language skill development.

Teacher: What is the time commitment that would be necessary for doing sandtray storymaking? And is it best done with individuals, small groups or an entire class.

Sheila: It is highly adaptable to different requirements of time frame, setting, and age group. The book relates stories of both mainstream and Special Education teachers who have used the technique in wide-ranging ways. Use it according to the needs of your students, your own scheduling demands, and the requirements of the curriculum.

Teacher: What do I need to know before I begin?

Sheila: To do sandtray play in the school effectively, you would need to:

1. Provide a structure that provides emotional safety to the students;

2. Stand back supportively as you allow sandplayers to develop their worlds; and

3. Foster a sense of community, a classroom ethos of listening between your students.

Teacher: What tools and equipment do I need to have available to the students?

Sheila: Sand. Individual sandtrays (27 litre bins, interiors spray-painted sky blue.) Water. Miniatures.

Teacher: How do you suggest responding when sensitive, painful or disturbing revelations arise from the sandtray play?

Sheila: I think your question arises out of our earlier discussion about how the play and storymaking help the child to process and sort out inner experience. Importantly, in sandtray play, there is a distance, a kind of ‘intermediate space’ in which children do this sorting out. It arises because sandworlds and stories are imaginary, not factual. Our role as teachers is definitely not to place an interpretation on the tray or on the story. And we are not therapists. If disturbing revelations do come to light, we need to deal with them in the same way as we would if this were to happen in any part of our daily round – by seeing support and help for the child and family from appropriate professionals or agencies.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

VIDEO: Choosing the right approach in Play Therapy

In this video, Lorri Yasenik and Ken Gardner explain their Play Therapy Dimensions Model, a decision-making tool that is already being used worldwide.

The Play Therapy Dimensions Model allows play therapists to tailor their approach to the specific needs of the child. Practitioners are encouraged to be engaged and flexible during sessions, adapting their levels of directiveness and consciousness according to the child’s responses. In their new book, featuring written and visual case studies, the authors clearly explain the model, how to use it and the positive therapeutic effects it can have on the child. The book also provides additional support to play therapy practitioners and play therapy supervisors with the inclusion of useful forms that aid therapy planning, conceptualization and evaluation. Click here for more info.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.