When I talk to parents about their children's emotions during counselling, all I often hear are judgements about their children's behaviour, complaints, disappointment coming from parenting as a string of failures. "This is not how I imagined being a father", "Nobody prepared me to be a mother of such a child", " This child is cheating on me in front of my eyes"-these are just some of the statements.
Somewhere the child himself and what he is like have been lost to the parents. The child also has difficulty finding himself, what is important to him, what makes him happy, what makes him uncomfortable and what gives him respite. The child has a problem in being himself and this is a sign that he needs therapy.
At the beginning of the Play Therapy process, children's emotions are completely scattered, undifferentiated, confused. This is because these children have lost touch with themselves, with people, and often want to forget what has happened to them. And what has happened to them: frustration, disappointment, fear, guilt, rejection, jealousy, sadness, worry, embarrassment. Adults often only see the effect of these feelings: anger that erupts at the slightest opportunity, often for no apparent reason. The lack of differentiation of children's emotions and their generalisation every time provokes very intense negative reactions from the child. This is when the parents start to see that something is wrong and seek help from a therapist.
At the beginning of the therapeutic process with children, the intensity of negative emotions is at its highest. Its strength requires the therapist to be consistent in their behaviour, to be persistent in setting boundaries, to protect the child and to protect themselves.During Play Therapy training therapists learn, among other things, how to protect the child and themselves during sessions. For example, they learn how to react and reflect the child's emotions during a dynamic play session in which the child tries to hit the therapist with a puppet, paint the therapist's nose.... Supervision helps the therapist to open their eyes to the person of the child, as the child's negative behaviour can obscure the true image of the child.
During the process, children express and release more and more of their negative emotions in a direct way. Sometimes parents see a deterioration in their child's behaviour. The Play Therapy therapist accepts all emotions and accepts them. As a result, they become less and less intense and less and less govern the child's behaviour in an unconscious way. The child gradually gains conscious control over his or her emotions and, as a result, behaviour.
In the final stage of the Play Therapy process, positive feelings begin to strengthen. The intensity of negative emotions becomes moderate. Children begin to see themselves in a more integrated way, as a whole made up of diverse emotions: negative and positive.
Children begin to see themselves more realistically.It is worth remembering that knowing the names of emotions has little to do with emotional intelligence, with a real sense of self. A real sense of self is based on the real experience of one's own emotions as seen in a mirror, which at first is the therapist, and over time this mirror is in the child himself, who is able to look into it and see the real self. The child becomes independent of the opinions of others, but at the same time follows the rules of society without losing his or her sense of self as an independent and free person. The child begins to connect his emotions with their sources, and calms down as he consciously begins to control them. In Play Therapy, this is evident in the session where the child plays with his emotions in a game created by and for him. The child feels whole at their age level. The child achieves "psychic wholeness". And this is what I wish for every child and their parents.