Once an unruly student who broke many of the rules about activities on a Play Therapy training course said that he did so because he did not feel safe. After a while he added: "I realised that freedom occurs when I feel safe, and I feel safe when there are clear boundaries".
The same is also true for children in the Play Therapy process: a child's autonomy develops when there are clearly defined, fixed and unchanging boundaries. Boundaries are not rules written on a piece of paper and hanging on the wall. They are an active process that accompanies their creation and respect.
Boundaries define a therapeutic relationship for the child, a relationship that becomes unique because it is predictable and safe. In this relationship, the child decides and takes responsibility for himself, his choice, and this gives him, in effect, a sense of agency. The boundaries are about the duration of the therapy session, which lasts 45 minutes, warning the child of 5 minutes until the end of the session, 1 minute until the end of the session and counting down loudly the last 10 seconds until the end of the session.
Boundaries relate to the name of the session: it is always 'The Special Hour'. Boundaries are about confidentiality, which is discussed with the child and presented in a way that is practical and accessible at the child's level. Boundaries are about toys, the use of creative materials, eating in the session, coming and going from the session, bringing different objects from home, gifts, the child's safety, the therapist's safety, etc. During Play Therapy training, therapists assimilate these principles into practice as the training provides them with the opportunity to experience these boundaries in the role of client, therapist as well as observer.
Boundaries are for the child and for the therapist. With them, the therapist creates a predictable environment for the child, in which the child can experience the therapeutic relationship as warm, friendly, safe. Only such a relationship creates in the child a sense of experiencing something unique in his or her development: an authentic experience of self, one's own freedom, creativity, emotions without fear of rejection when experiencing them.
For the therapist, boundaries provide a sense of competence, physical and psychological security. They allow the therapist to focus on the whole child, as an autonomous person, and not just on correcting what the referrers have reported to therapy. The therapist thus ceases to be a tool in their hands and becomes a person in relationship with the child. Relationship psychology has put it beautifully: "In a relationship with someone we become someone". Nothing to add, nothing to take away.