Building a therapeutic relationship with a child is like stacking dominoes vertically: one mistake and all the cubes topple over; one wrong reaction from the therapist and the power of the relationship disappears. And we start all over again, but already with a different experience, wiser. Children forgive mistakes if the therapist is able to admit them and apologise, in fact, in this way he expresses respect for the child.
The first sessions with the child are particularly important for the therapeutic process, as they form the foundations of the process. This is where the therapeutic relationship has its roots.
Knowing and being able to put into practice Virginia Axline's 8 KEY PRINCIPLES OF NON-REACTIVE THERAPY is fundamental to each stage of the process. I will therefore briefly remind you of them:
Donald Winnicott greatly valued the above principles of non-directive therapy. He also affirmed that a profound psychotherapeutic process can take place without interpreting what the child is doing. In practice, Virginia Axline's non-directive therapy principles create a unique climate that a child can only experience in the Play Therapy office. The child feels respected, the child has choice, the child has insight into all their feelings, positive and negative. The child feels that what they do is up to them and thus only they are responsible for their choices.
In Play Therapy, the child will not hear the answers to the questions he or she poses to the therapist, because the therapist will create an environment in which the child will find the answers and become aware of his or her own feelings. Thus, when a child asks: "what is it?" -therapist will answer: "you are curious about what it is?" or: "you are interested in the name of it. It can be whatever you want it to be. It's up to you." This is not easy, because as adults we intuitively answer children's questions.
The Play Therapy therapist's discipline in applying the 8 key principles of therapy results in the child experiencing a sense of freedom, autonomy, a sense of self-understanding, a sense of themselves as a person capable of discovering themselves and others. The therapist's discipline is the result of the therapist's self-awareness, which the therapist develops intensively during training and during clinical work supervised by a Play Therapy supervisor.
As you can see, it is Virginia Axline's principles that form the basis of an effective psychotherapeutic process with the child. It is important to know them and, above all, to follow them at every moment of the session regardless of the child's mood or ours, regardless of the child's problems or our own childhood and present problems.
Building a therapeutic relationship with children during Play Therapy sessions with strict application of non-directive therapy principles quickly creates the kind of developmental climate for children that they need to discover and understand themselves and the world around them. In Play Therapy International, students first learn non-directive therapy, and after mastering it, they
learn directive therapy, in which they are able to create the conditions for a trusting and safe relationship with the child based on respect for the child and his/her needs. Here, it is the child that counts, not just the problem.