Children process feelings through play. Unlike adults who process feelings or strong emotional experiences through talk therapy (and other modalities), the most effective therapy with children is through art and play. An example of what this looks like is, let’s say the child is struggling with anxiety; we might use a doll house with people figurines. The child will naturally act out through the play, with the dollhouse, events that he/she experience that cause him/her anxiety. Maybe the child will make the parent figurines “go away” and the child figurine might cry or be scared, another figurine might get angry at the child figurine for crying, and the scenario could go on and on. I’ll be especially interested in what the child figurine is experiencing because this will be what is going on in his/her own psyche. Once I identify the struggle, theme, or story, I’ll be able to help the child process through the experience, teach coping techniques, have corrective experiences and/or resolve the conflict. Play therapy is done using a variety of tools, such as doll houses, sand tray, puppets, animals, or their own objects (I’ve had clients bring their dog, their yearbooks, the family photo album, their favorite stuff animal, etc.).
Work with teens usually involves rich emotional experiences. During adolescence we are closely connected to how we feel. Many of our longest-term memories are formed during this time and we are egocentric which means we are experiencing everything from a unique perspective. I have a special fondness for working with teenagers because I really value their struggles, their energy and this time in their life.
Individual therapy with adults usually begins with exploring early childhood experiences and early relational experiences, as often times our current struggles are impacted unconsciously by these prior events. Equally important is the present, and I do a lot of focus on the “here & now” or what is happening in the therapy room or within our therapeutic relationship. The groundwork will be creating a safe environment so you are able to be vulnerable. The essential component to therapy is your sense of trust so that you can look at defenses, process emotions and tap into what feels heavy or difficult.