What Happens During A Therapeutic Hour?

When you ask what your child did during the therapeutic hour, he or she is likely to say "Nothing.  We played."  It's the same as asking what they did at school.  Sometimes you will see the products of the session--artwork, a new game to play at home, maybe even a new strategy for better communication.

super hero 2

Sometimes the therapist plans an activity or conversation that focuses on a particular issue:  Problems with friends, sadness, aggression, impulsiveness, and so on.  For example, to deal with aggression, the therapist may suggest a game of 'army men'. Politically incorrect? Yes.  A laboratory for aggressive feelings? Also Yes.  (Actually, army men will engender feelings of protection and value.  That's what army men do--they protect what is valuable.)  When played with a therapist, in a special office with the promise of confidentiality, the game takes on a very purposeful sense.

Other times ownership if the hour is given exclusively to the child, and the therapist participates by facilitating the child's use of his or her time.  Children who are struggling emotionally tend to either dominate the hour, or leave themselves out of the decision process, instead being obedient to what the adult in the room wants.  The therapist uses this process to elicit new behavior from the child which is more pro-social.  Dominating children and bashful children alike learn that cooperation is much more rewarding.  This is also how trust between child and therapist is formed.  The child learns his or her opinion is wanted and valuable.  An example of this is a child who is acting out after his or her parents' separation and divorce.  Perhaps the child spontaneously (or with the participation of the therapist) pretends to be the parents.  Scolding one another, pointing fingers, crying and generally feeling confused.  The therapist might pretend to be the sad child who feels heartbroken and angry and doesn't know how to explain or express this confusion.

Your child will form an alliance with the therapist based on this process of deciding what to do, which creates the opportunity to be someone different.  There are no expectations of family or teachers.  There is no need to try to be someone you're not.  The therapist isn't going to "get you in trouble."  The therapist is going to focus the play, art activity or relationship on the emotional and/or developmental world, though, building skills and growth where there may be deficits.

super hero 1

The job of the child therapist is to help children do three things:

1.  Identify what they're feeling.

2.  Explore what they're feeling.

3.  Express what they're feeling.

The tools a child therapist uses are games, free play, conversation, the power of a relationship and the ability to bridge the gap between a child and his or her parents.

With these things accomplished, your child will be well on his or her way to feeling better about himself or herself.

All information contained in this site is Copyright 2014, Robin Walker.  The information here is not intended as a substitute for professional care and is not to be construed as advice.  Reproduction is prohibited without the express permission of the author.