Any experienced therapist understands the difficulties that surround working with children. Children are unique in the counseling session because of many reasons. They are unfamiliar with the process and goal of therapy, they usually are sent to therapy by a parent, and they are unsure about sharing personal information with a stranger. Creating rapport is probably the biggest challenge that mental health therapists working with children experience. It is necessary to have the right tools that encourage open communication. The following are a few extremely helpful child therapy tools.
Children love to draw and color. Allowing them to pick up a crayon or colored pencil and color is a great way to reduce anxiety. In fact, this method has even been used with adults who are experienced high levels of anxiety. The simple motion of moving the colored pencil back and forth can be very comforting. Use coloring books and pre colored lines to reduce anxiety around the counseling process. Later on, consider using blank papers to aid in the counseling process. Pay attention to the colors they choose frequently, the types of things they draw, and what they say about them.
Toy dolls and action figures
Children are used to playing with dolls and action figurines. Up until about the age of 12, children use play as a means of communication. If you have ever had a child push toys in your face, it is likely that they are attempting to communicate and connect with you. You can use these toys in the counseling room to encourage the same type of communication. You can also learn a lot about the child by paying attention to the specific toys they play with and the types of situations they create among the different toys. Children are likely to open up with you, without even realizing that they are.
Child therapy games
Once you have created a level of trust and rapport with your child client, consider moving to specific child therapy games. These are games that were designed by professional counselors, with the intent of providing counseling services. Different games serve different purposes throughout the counseling process. Child play therapy toys are generally used early on. As you progress in the process, switch out to therapy cards.
There are many benefits of therapy card games. Therapy card games are usually different topics that encourage further communication. They may surround issues of morality, values, or family roles. They bring up different communication topics that you might not otherwise think of. Children are usually very interested in playing along, because it is a game. Therapy cards can be a great way to move the process along.
Therapy sand tray
Therapy sand is a specialized type of child counseling tool. Sometimes, using regular toys and games may not be efficient. The child may still be too guarded to trust the therapist. They may not enjoy the types of toys in the counseling room. They may become bored of them after a few sessions. Therapy sand trays, however, are unique in that children tend to not have them at home. The only experience they may have with sand is on vacation or at the local community park.
Therapy sand trays can, however, be very effective in developing communication and in learning a lot about a child. About one third of all children will go through a change in the family structure, including divorce or separation before they reach 18 years old. Therapy sand trays allow children to create lines, situations, and images with sand. They can choose to cover some items and leave others more exposed. This can be a great communication tool.
For about 70 years, play therapy has been a means to help children communicate without words. Children sometimes struggle in the counseling process, mostly because they are unsure and do not trust the therapist. Play therapy, games, and therapy sand trays can encourage communication, while making the environment more comfortable and familiar to the child. The therapist, in turn, can learn a lot about the child and their feelings, based on their play patterns.