Growing up, growing out of, growing into, upward growth; so many different ways to grow. When children are born we understand that they will grow. Doctors measure their head circumference, check their weight and how they are growing in many other ways at what we know of as the “well baby checkup.” We do this to assure ourselves that growth is happening. Doctors are looking for development to occur in an upward trajectory. When there is regression or stagnation in development we have examine what is blocking the growth.
So as we get older how do we know when we are growing or when we are stuck? Sometimes we can feel it because we feel unhappy or dissatisfied with life or ourselves. We can feel depressed because nothing seems to be changing. Some people are very comfortable with having things stay just as they are, some are not. Some seek motion and movement while others seek the peace and calm of being by themselves. In children and teens we know they are stuck emotionally when their mood changes, normal behaviors change or they have “acting out behaviors. The question is “What are they acting out?” When we know this we can help them get unstuck from it and continue to grow. That’s one of the many things we work on in play therapy sessions.
In play therapy how do we know whether or not growth is happening? Children’s language is play and we, the play therapist, are the interpreter of this unique language. Play therapists enter the playroom without an expectation of the outcome. We accept and nurture the child, teen, adult or family at the place they start their work. Each session brings unique opportunities for growth to occur. Sometimes children will develop their own game to help them resolve the presenting problem like “The Princess Game” or the “Dark Monster Game”. As children use their imagination they can project their worries, fears and anything else that is unresolved in them to find ways to grow and heal.
I have many different varieties of roses in my garden. I plant them for special or memorable occasions in my life or the life of my family. One of the roses is called “Irish Rose” for when my Irish father-in-law died. As I plant each rose I water it and fertilize it as the sun warms it and helps it grows. Roses love sunshine so it is not likely the rose will grow in winter when there is little sun and cold temperatures but on occasion this does happen. When a rose blooms in winter it is a special event that symbolically shows us strength, endurance, resiliency and hope; that even in the darkest of times we can get through this, we may grow slowly but we will grow and one day all that keeps us stuck will be healed and we can go out and play. The work we do in any type of therapy can feel like a rose that blooms in winter; slow and steady, revealing the beauty within., embraced by a trusting relationship between child (teen, adult or family) and therapist.
Our motto at Treehouse Family Counseling Services is “A safe place to play and grow.” We want to help children and their families get past obstacles and find the resiliency within themselves to grow and heal. We do this through play interventions that allow for; unconditional positive regard, respect for the individual person we are working with, support and resources for reaching past the stuck places in their lives to have rich and fulfilling experiences and relationships.
A play therapy session can be deceiving and on might say “but you are just playing!” Oh yes indeed we are playing – and oh so much more. We are opening up the beauty and healing power within through the joy and safety of play. It’s time we all go out and play.
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner, Treehouse Family Counseling Services