One of the challenges of Play Therapy can be making it accessible to children as they get older, and Mark Loewen, LPC, a registered Play Therapist in Richmond, VA highlights this issue as it pertains to preteens in his recent contribution to the blog: 4 Ways to Make Play Therapy Appropriate for Preteens. Mr. Loewen discusses an important issue clinicians face, which is balancing emerging needs for autonomy and identity formation in the face of techniques that to the preteen, may seem beyond their age. As such, it is important to consider as he mentions, how to keep the aspects of play that capture a child's basic "language," continuing to serve as an outlet for emotional and creative expression in a way that remains invaluable throughout the lifetime. We already know, that children who are starved for play, experience various forms of emotional and relational difficulties that last well into adulthood. Therefore, being creative about fostering this and creating safe environments that respect the ongoing development without stifling it, is a precarious balance indeed. One that requires fine tuning and attention.
This fine tuning is often found in the present moment, but the clinician and the client need to "show up" for that. Kristi Pikiewicz addresses this in The Challenge of Present Processing in Play Therapy, lending consideration to staying present with emotions that are actually brought into the room by the child. It is important for us to teach and facilitate expression, but oftentimes remaining present to the play and emerging themes can really help us 'stick with' the present process. "Poking the trauma," as she mentions, is not necessarily the approach all therapists take and in fact can remove the safety from the therapeutic space and re-traumatize a child. Therefore, being present is so important, as our child clients will bring into the room what they will as their expression develops through play and the sense of safety grows. Unfortunately, the system is not always set up to allow us to do that rich work in the amount of time it takes and so we continue to debate how to make the best of shortened sessions and complex traumas.