BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 17

Play therapy can be used most effectively with children aged three through
12, with some minor adjustments for either end of the developmental scale.
One of the things I have learned in my use of play therapy is to give more
"space" to the children in my playroom, as they are engaged in their play.
remember. When I discovered the subject
areas of psychology and child psychology
in college, I felt an "aha" and knew this
would be my life's work. In a film we once
watched in an undergraduate psychology
class, I was riveted by Judy Adler's work
with autistic children. One of my first real
jobs the summer I was 15 was as a 'Mother's
Helper' to a family who had three children,
including an 8-year-old who was autistic. It
was one of the most interesting and unique
experiences of my life. Somewhere along
the way I also read Virginia Axline's "Dibs
In Search of Self." It occurred to me that to
a large extent, all children have difficulty
communicating with an adult world.
Play therapy can be used most effectively with children aged three through
12, with some minor adjustments for either
end of the developmental scale. One of
the things I have learned in my use of play
therapy is to give more "space" to the children in my playroom, as they are engaged
in their play. I used to feel a real pressure
to understand the child's process-now.
By creating a neutral space for children
to play, I have discovered that it is not so
much my job to "do" something with the
play the child sets out before me. The
child needs time to work inside their own
play, to manipulate their own symbols and
experiment with their own interactions
with the toys. It is very important, however,

that they do this with the therapist as a witness. Therapists will experience children
demanding undivided attention toward
their play. Often in a child's life when problem circumstances occur, the child is left
alone with it and the child attempts to
make sense of what has happened, but
not in an integrated way. Play therapy can
be used for many types of problems that
come up in children's lives; it is also quite
applicable with brain injured, deaf, mentally handicapped, fetal alcohol affected
children or those mental health diagnoses.
Marie José Dhaese, a leading play therapist and play therapy supervisor in British
Columbia, very rightly reminds us that
this work keeps the therapist humble.
The difficulty is to know which is what
kind of play and what it represents. The
symbols in the play hold the feelings,
Marie Jose Dhaese affirms. It is our job
to disentangle the child's innate wisdom,
thus helping the child to re-experience
the event and the feelings associated
both from the outside (this is where the
therapist is watching the play intently, or
commenting on what they observe the
child doing), as well as from the inside of
themselves. This interaction is how the
child begins to integrate their experience with a safer new reality. Some of
the things I look for while watching the
child are: the choices children make in the

How children play can help an observant therapist understand complex
feelings that the child may be experiencing but not able to communicate.
BC Counsellor | Winter 2018 | www.bcschoolcounsellor.com

relationships or problems they play out;
how do they present conflicts; who are the
protagonists and who are the villains and
are they projecting their own identities
onto the toys; is there a message of chaos,
or underdeveloped play or do they show
static play or movement in their play.
Garry Landreth suggests that children do
not give up their typical way of coping in
the playroom. Another very helpful tip
from one of Garry Landreth's workshops
I attended in Vancouver was play that
appears 'stuck' indicates that children are
working through something significant.
I believe it is important to have training in play therapy, for several reasons. I
already mentioned my belief of children
being vulnerable. People in their lives can
make decisions based on the information
that comes out of their play therapy sessions. As therapists, we want to be sure we
are truly representing the views and feelings of the child. Moreover, especially in
therapy with children I believe it is important to have a supervisor counsellor or
peer counsellors to case conference with
on a continued basis, particularly when
beginning work in play therapy. As we
learn to disentangle the child's innate
wisdom, thus helping the child to reexperience the event and the feelings,
there are different levels of information
to consider and make sense of.
Dianne Noort has run a private
practice in Williams Lake and
100 Mile House, B.C., working
as a family therapist. She is a
past president of the BC School
Counsellor's Association and has years of
experience as an elementary school counsellor both in the school districts of Surrey and
the Cariboo-Chilcotin. She uses play therapy
in her work and finds that working with children keeps her in touch with the "the soul"
of her therapy. Children have largely taught
her about bringing to life an inner emotional
world and how to connect this to the outer
reality of functioning in daily life. This article
was reprinted from a previous BC Counsellor
issue published in 2012.
17


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of BC Counsellor - Winter 2018

President’s Perspective
The Fine Print
Book Review
How the Use of Neuroscience and the Satir Model in the Sand Tray Facilitates Healing in Low-Verbal or Non-Verbal Children
BC School Counseling: Preserving One-on-One Support for Students
SuperConference Recap
Ask an Expert: Dianne Noort Talks about Play Therapy
Counsellor’s Corner
Index to Advertisers
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - intro
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - cover1
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - cover2
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 3
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - President’s Perspective
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 5
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - The Fine Print
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - Book Review
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - How the Use of Neuroscience and the Satir Model in the Sand Tray Facilitates Healing in Low-Verbal or Non-Verbal Children
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 9
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 10
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 11
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 12
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - BC School Counseling: Preserving One-on-One Support for Students
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 14
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - SuperConference Recap
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - Ask an Expert: Dianne Noort Talks about Play Therapy
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - 17
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - Index to Advertisers
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - cover3
BC Counsellor - Winter 2018 - cover4
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