As a Play Therapist, when you hear the word play, what images come to mind? Do you see an active, energetic scene with puppets dancing and jumping? Or is it more along the lines of quiet engagement between therapist and child processing an art creation, or Sandtray? Might you be seeing in your mind’s eye a lively storytelling narrative, or peacefully sharing a collection of worry stones? Chances are, the first image that comes to mind is a representation of your Play Spirit.
Just like our own personalities influence our day to day interactions with the world, our role as Play Therapists is also guided by a unique set of characteristics and inner attributes, creating a playful demeanor that is superbly individualized for your work.
On a recent trip to the 2011 Association for Play Therapy Conference, I found myself among many wonderful, esteemed colleagues. Some were healers and authors I have looked up to for nearly 20 years, and some were new to my world. Revering their work, it is easy to be in well-deserved awe of their practice style…outstanding personal approaches that provided healing to collective thousands. What I started to see was that part of their healing magic was their differences in styles. While many may have subscribed to the same Play Therapy approaches, it was their inner spirit that made that work come alive. A quote that illustrates this best was spoken in a workshop at this same conference: David Crenshaw, author of numerous Play Therapy publications, reminded us all that “You are your own unique form of genius.”
What does that mean to you? The way YOU play is just right. Having taught this for years to growing Play Therapists, I developed a new appreciation of that, which is the inspiration for this writing.
The National Institute for Play teaches us about several play personalities. By nature, we might be the Storyteller, the Joker, the Mover, or even the Artist. We may offer play healing by sharing collections, musical moments, or by performing. Most of us will have combinations of these. Let’s extend this by considering that not only do we have a Play Personality, but a Play Spirit. Think of this as the brilliant and compelling combination of any of these play personalities, combined with our own specialized way of making them come to life.
If our Play Personality is our language, then our Play Spirit is the dialect. This is what gives shape to our “unique genius” that we then bring to our therapy rooms. Your Play Spirit is made up of subtleties, nuances, and the jewels of your own inner child. It is how your full play personality makes itself known and can be most easily characterized by the way you Energize and Spiritualize your play.
Energize –This is the way you convey energy. How does your energy pour out of you? Is it active, or more quiet? Energy does not mean only kinesthetic, or action-based. Your playful energy may be quite present in stillness. Quiet moments of play can be filled with the exhilaration of healing as much as movement-based sessions.
Spiritualize – This is how your play shows reverence for the child’s sacredness, his miraculous being and in the gift of sharing the space and path with him. It’s how you are fully present with the child, delighting in his existence. This is something that no one therapist can do the same.
The portrait of a Play Therapist is colorful, textured, dynamic, and one of a kind. Remember that the nature of your own playful spirit may or may not directly match what the client brings into your room. But that does not always mean there is not a goodness of fit; perhaps your style of play will introduce him to a new way of healing, and his interactions will continue to teach you about new ways to speak the language of play. Your Play Spirit is your authentic way of creating playful synchronicity with a child, as original to the Play Therapist as is the child with whom they share this sacred time. We honor the individuality of each child; do the same for you and let yourself be the Play Therapist you were meant to be!
© Copyright 2011 by Cherie Spehar, LCSW, ACTP, RPT-S, therapist in Apex, North Carolina. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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