Do you feel like you are at your wit's end, trying to help your kids manage their behavior and BIG feelings? Do they seem to worry a lot, cry or seem 'shut down'? Or maybe they are being extra defiant--more than other kids their age. Or perhaps something scary or painful happened to them, and they are having a hard time getting past it.
Many experiences can effect a child's mood and behavior, including a new sibling, medical trauma, a history of abuse or neglect, conflict over gender identity or being LGBTQ, symptoms of ADHD, PTSD, issues of adoption, acculturation, or problems associated with a recent separation or divorce. Or it may be that your child is now a 'tween', and is developing unhealthy behaviors to cope with this big transition.
Sometimes there is a clear cause for a kiddo's behavior, but sometimes there just isn't--they were acting fine one day, and the next day it's like revenge of the bodysnatchers.
If any of these descriptions fit your child, I will help you explore the causes of their behavior, and work with you to get them back on the right track, so they can be the awesome kid they were born to be!
What is Play Therapy and How Can it Help My Child?
It is often said that play is the natural language of a child. Play Therapy is one of the most trauma-informed and gentle yet effective therapeutic modalities available to children. The Play Therapy modality I utilize is Experiential, and depending on the age and developmental level of the child is non-directive, directive, or a combination of the two. In Experiential Play Therapy, the therapist is an active part of the process. While the child often leads the play, choosing which toys to play with and how, and whether or not to include the therapist, the therapist is always there to act as a sort of 'emotional mirror', reflecting back the actions and emotions evident in the child's play, so that this can be brought gently to the consciousness of the child.
It is important to keep in mind that your child playing with a play therapist is very different from your child playing with a friend or even a parent. In the therapy playroom, children are able to do and say many things that otherwise may not be considered appropriate in your child's home or school setting, such as playing with aggressive toys, using profanity, using figurines to "play out" their trauma or sexual abuse, etc. With an experienced play therapist, a child is given permission to express and vent their emotions fully, so that when they go back to their home, school, etc., they can be more regulated, socially skilled and able to use their "thinking mind" more often.
The therapist provides safe and gentle boundaries and limits as needed, allowing the child to relax and play comfortably. Children are always able to bring in drinks and non-messy snacks, and I will provide snacks if the child is feeling peckish (such as Goldfish). Children are also allowed to bring in one or two toys that are important to them.
Through Play Therapy, children learn to explore and to recognize their own emotions, behavior patterns, and family dynamics, and will often learn to verbalize these emotions, strengthening the integration between the right and left side of the brain. Being able to eventually verbalize emotions is a powerful step for children, and with this, parents and therapist often see a decrease in unhealthy, aggressive behavior.
Directive Play Therapy involves the use of therapeutic games, psycho-education (such as teaching children about their brain, their nervous system and how to use coping skills), puppet play, art projects and writing activities. In this way, they can learn more about their emotional states, and learn to use and practice coping skills to use at home, at school, or in the community. Other therapeutic modalities, such as CBT, Mindfulness, DBT, Somatic Therapy, etc. can be easily added to any directive Play Therapy session, and are often useful and effective in the child's emotional growth.
What is a Registered Play Therapist?
There is a lot of training, consultation and work that goes into being a registered play therapist. According to the Association for Play Therapy, "The Association for Play Therapy (APT) confers the designation of Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPT-S) to individuals who have provided APT with documentation that they have a) a mental health graduate or higher degree; b) been licensed by the applicable state licensing or certification authority; c) completed a minimum number of hours of general clinical experience and supervision (500 hours of supervised play therapy specific experience, plus 50 hours of concurrent play therapy specific supervision.); d) completed a minimum number of hours of play therapy training and supervision (150 hours of play therapy specific instruction from institutions of higher education or APT-approved providers ); and e) completed the requisite continuing education hours (18 hours of play therapy specific instruction from institutions of higher education or APT-approved providers every 36 months.)."
Please see the Association for Play Therapy’s website for more information about the effectiveness of play therapy at www.a4pt.org.
As a Registered Play Therapist and Certified Sandplay Therapist, I use play-based modalities including:
My play therapy room includes:
In addition to play-based therapies, I may also incorporate traditional talk therapy with your child, if she/he is at a developmental level in which they are able to sit and talk. Or I may incorporate techniques from EMDR therapy. No matter the approach, it is my goal to support them to process trauma and/or other issues, and to then help them practice and use valuable coping skills (such as mindfulness, anger management and positive self-talk).
Snacks and Drinks in Session
Children often arrive hungry after a long day in school, and so I provide snacks and healthy juice or water for your child. I also allow children to chew gum during session to encourage regulation and focus. Please let me know if your child has any allergies or other restrictions.
Parent Involvement in Therapy:
Did you know that you, the parent/caretaker are the most important person in your child's life, and are an essential element in their healing process? Healing takes place faster and behavioral changes last longer with parental involvement in therapy. I will see your child for only one or two hours a week, but you spend much more time with them than that. Although you may be feeling frustrated with your little one's behavior, it is important to not give up--and to be open to trying out new strategies to help your kiddo with their anger, impulsivity or sadness. Parents who are able to be emotionally regulated and present are welcomed in the therapeutic process, and I may recommend a course of initial play therapy with me and then filial therapy, depending on the attachment needs I see in your relationship. I will provide empathic suggestions and resources to support you as the parent/caretaker in helping your child with their difficult emotions. Parenting support and check-ins are required at a minimum of once a month.
Separated and Divorced Parents:
As it is in the best interest of your child, I am only able to work with divorced parents who are willing to co-parent civilly, and can come in together for parenting support sessions. If you are struggling with a highly conflictive relationship or are battling for custody and are not willing to co-parent effectively, I am unfortunately not able to see your child. Since I would be solely your child's play therapist, I am also not able to engage in the dual relationship of supporting you legally (including working with CFI's and attorneys and testifying for you in court).
Working as a Team with Parents and Caretakers: Communication
If your child is under the age of 15 (if they are 15 or over, they will need to give signed permission), you have every right to information about how your child is doing in play therapy, their struggles, and their improvements. In order to maintain trust with your child, I may not give you every detail about what they said, what they played with and how they played with it, but I will certaintly give you information about themes I see emerging, and may ask you questions to help fill in the gaps. It will therefore be important for me to know about any recent changes at home or in school. I look forward to supporting you in supporting your child!
Maggie Young (she, her)
950 S. Cherry St., Suite 419
Denver, CO 80246
Phone (call or text): (720) 316-1182
Hours for psychotherapy:
Hours for PLSR: Thursdays 10:00-3:30