I hesitated for a long time when choosing a title for this post. It sounded risky, because I feared a negative interpretation of it, such as: does this mean that we should not help the child during therapy? After all, the child needs help, support. This is correct. I think that the proper consideration of this topic should be more about the answer: when ? at what point?
It is very difficult during a therapy session not to help the child. Non-directive therapy is perhaps difficult precisely because you have to stop the first impulsive reaction of wanting to help and wait. During a Play Therapy session, a child may not be able to cope with many things. Sometimes putting two Lego bricks together is a challenge, sometimes opening a new plastic cup of pastry is a challenge for the child. The heart and hands of the 'good adult' reach out on their own to help the child: to join the blocks together, to open the cup with the pastry cream. Just who gains from this situation and what information about themselves? The therapist, yes, will gain a sense of having helped the child. The child, on the contrary, will gain the feeling that he or she is so weak and clumsy that he or she will not be able to put two blocks together or open the cup of jelly beans. Are we sure that by helping the child, we want to give him the feeling that he is weak, clumsy and needs help? Maybe the vanity of the therapist and his need to be needed by the child is behind it? Maybe the therapist is unable to bear the child's frustration and the child's negative feelings accompanying failure and prevents them from happening by solving the problem for the child? Only does this mean that he accepts the child as he is ?
The therapist's sense of being needed by the child implies the child's dependence on the therapist, not the independence of the child and the therapist. Under conditions of dependence, it is difficult for two autonomous persons to develop.
So to help or not to help? If you are still in doubt then I will answer this question: not to help until the child asks for help. And it's not about getting the child to say the word "please", because learning magic words is not the goal here. It's about accepting that a child may not be able to, that a child may get upset, that a child may throw a cup of doughball on the floor shouting: "stupid box, I hate you". The idea is that the child can experience the real him/herself in the presence of an accepting therapist who will tell the child about his/her attempts, even when they end in failure, and will be ready to help when the child asks for help. But the most important thing is that the child will seek help himself to solve the problem, to finally open that box of pastry cream or put the blocks together. The next time, the child will find the solution to the problem himself or someone to help him. And this is what will contribute to the child's independence. This is because not being able to do something is not a cause for shame or sadness. Rather, the fact that we do not know how to do something and do not seek help to solve our difficulty is already a cause for serious concern.
The child's ability to organise help for themselves seems to be the answer to why the therapist should not do it for the child. And if the child eventually manages to open that box of pastry cream himself, then he will experience a sense of his own agency. However, if we were to open it ourselves, then he would not have that opportunity. And this is why 'not helping' works therapeutically.