"The child sees himself in his mother's eyes"-these are the words of D. Winnicot, which may already orient some of you to the way you think about the role of parents in Play Therapy.
It is worthwhile to devote part of the therapy work and supervision to the parents, even though the Play Therapy sessions are child-only.
The very first contact with the child's parents gives the therapist an opportunity to assess: how I feel about my relationship with these parents. The interview with the parents, gives a unique opportunity to talk about the child's problems, but also provides an important source of information about the parents' expectations. These should be made clear.
If a parent enters the Play Room for the
first time and says: "but you have lots of toys here, I would like to play myself". - then we can assume that our cooperation will go well. The parent is open to being themselves.
It is useful to show parents the variety of therapy materials and emphasise the fact that each child is looking for his or her own medium to express emotions. The variety of Play Kits creates opportunities for each child to express emotions freely and safely. In the United States, Play Therapy sessions are recorded. In the UK approach, which covers more than 30 countries worldwide, recording Play Therapy sessions is prohibited due to the confidentiality of the child's process. Thus, there is no equipment to record the session that we need to familiarise the parent with.
The parent is involved in the child's therapy by attending evaluation meetings. These meetings take place every 6-8 sessions with the child, but not in exchange for the child's session.
You can find out what, among other things, a Play Therapy therapist discusses during evaluation meetings at the Play Therapy training.
When parents will know:
- then they will become enthusiastic about their child's therapy process through Play Therapy. Through evaluation meetings, they will have the opportunity to understand their child's emotions and behaviour. Gradually, they will stop judging their child. Instead, an understanding of the child's behaviour and feelings will emerge. They will also begin to see that the family has an impact on what happens to the child, that it is not just a problem of the child sent to therapy. They will begin to see that their own fears, feelings of inferiority, lack of strategies to deal with negative emotions can be the source of the child's difficulties, who, defending himself, presents various symptoms that worry them. It is very often the case that the parent consciously recognises the need for their own therapy and perceives this as the best investment in their relationship with their child and with themselves.
If you think that the parents get in the way of therapy, or that they are often the source of the child's difficulties, this is certainly a topic for supervision of your clinical work. For this is the first manifestation in the therapist of thinking of herself as a better mother/better father for that child. There is unfortunately no place here (I am thinking of the therapeutic alliance) for the real mother/father of the child.