Nurture your inner child. It’s the theme for Sunset Sip 2017 and highlights a key component of play therapy, but what does it mean and why is it important? Why would we invite guests to “nurture their inner child?”
To help answer those questions, we enlisted the help of Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, clinical therapist at The Guidance Center and developer of It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma-Informed Movement in Education), to explain a little about how play therapy works and how it helps the healing process:
A great number of children and families receiving mental health services at The Guidance Center have endured significant stressors in their lives, both acute and persistent in nature. These stressors play enormous roles as underlying contributors to the impaired emotional, psychological, and behavioral functioning of which the children and families are seeking support at The Guidance Center.
To quote Dr. Bruce Perry of The Child Trauma Academy; “Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.” The acts of being present, kind, patient, caring, empathic, and understanding in a therapeutic relationship with a client is literally re-wiring the overly stressed, dysregulated, and traumatized brain; creating new neural connections of how it feels to feel felt.
Therapeutic healing isn’t so much about building insight or a cognitive understanding, but rather, it’s about experiencing the sensations of physical and emotional safely while working through one’s stressors and traumas.
Dr. Byron and Dr. Carol Norton’s Experiential Play Therapy Model teaches the value of forming healing relationships. Experiential Play Therapy is a way of entering a child’s world, relating to the child’s perspective, playing with the child, and forming a safe and empowering relationship with honor and respect for the child. The honoring process entails being present, accepting, respecting and validating of a child’s emotions and behaviors, and giving meaning and value to everything the child says and does.
Experiential Play Therapy is not a means of using toys to “get the child to talk”. According to play therapy icon Garry Landreth, “Play is the child’s natural form of communication. Toys are their words and play is their language.” The child engages in therapeutic play with the adult at his or her own pace, playing out his/her developmental needs for nurturing and protection, and revealing experiences of psychological pain and stress through associations and symbolic themes with toys and play materials.
Stay tuned for the next blog post where Nathan introduces us to one of his former clients, a six-year-old named Victor*, who found his voice in play and was able to heal from trauma.
Tickets and sponsorship opportunities for Sunset Sip 2017 are available at http://bit.ly/SUNSETSIP2017.
*Name changed to maintain confidentiality.