I recently read an interesting chapter of a book on play therapy and how it is possible for it to be used with adults. At first I was skeptical, I have used play therapy with children for many years now and have found it to be very beneficial in opening children up to dialogue that they would not have been able to do just one on one. But come on, adults know how to openly communicate right?
Before we dive into the details, let me give you a quick overview on what Play Therapy is.
At its root, play therapy is when a therapist engages with a client by playing with them. The therapist could use toys, board games, and imagination.
In my experience, play therapy allows someone to open up and interact in ways that they would not do if they were not in play. During play children are able to disassociate themselves and really express things that they do not know how to get out in speech.
As I was reading the chapter on play therapy for adults, I kept thinking that there is truly no way for this to be an option. Until I realized something - it is getting harder and harder to have open communication with people.
I am not talking about just in a therapy session but in everyday life. I realized that there is starting to be a breakdown in real communication done in person. In today’s society, we constantly think about how we will be judged by others.
We think about what we should wear to look our best, we consider what car we drive to show that we have money or status, and we express ourselves more through our phones than we do in person.
The lack of open communication is causing us to lose our desire to openly communicate or even understand how to communicate properly. Here is where play therapy comes in.
Play therapy is used to help those who do not know how to communicate openly, to do so in a way that feels safe and unbiased.
And we have already been using it without even realizing it: the age old “ice-breaker” that is used in so many business meetings or conferences. The ice-breaker is used to allow a flow of open communication in a fun safe manner.
Many who choose to do an ice-breaker do so to start an open line of communication with those involved throughout the meeting.
This five to ten minute game allows people to get comfortable and feel as if they can be open and engaged.
I know that play therapy is normally used with children, but now I believe it can be applied when working with adults. In individual adult therapy I plan to use play therapy in a different way than I did with the children I counseled but with the same purpose.
With adults I plan on using resources like board and card games, instead of dolls and cars, with the hope that I will be able to discover how to open up a line of unhindered communication so I can help my client heal and move forward.
What exactly will play therapy look like for adults? For individual sessions I will use card and board games as “ice-breakers” if needed at the beginning of the session. Honestly, it can be difficult to get someone to open up.
If this becomes an issue, I will ask my client what their favorite board game is or was when they were growing up and bring it to the next session. When we are involved in play it is easier to feel connected to the person that you are playing with.
Even if the conversation during the game is light and lacking depth there still develops a bond, if only for a short time, that will help those involved feel safe and open.
The more counselling I do with couples, the more I realize that there is a lack of communication in most relationships.
It isn’t that they are unable to have healthy discussions, they just do not talk to one another. Whether it is due to a busy schedule with jobs and children or even sitting next to one another on their phones, they just do not talk.
Therefore, I believe that the assignment to play a game together once a week could help open up communication and bring fun back to the relationship.
For both couples and adult individuals, I would not use play therapy as my only counseling method. But paired with other therapy techniques this can bring new insight and fun to the therapy session. So, this skeptic has become a believer.
I will start using play therapy in my sessions when appropriate and will be giving out homework assignments involving games.
Because why not bring in some fun along with open communication to help bring hope back to our children, ourselves, and our relationships.
Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com