Back in November I attended training in London, at The Child Mental Health Institute, to further my knowledge and understanding of the child’s brain and how it develops during childhood and the impact the lack of care and trust from parents can have on it. I came away feeling inspired and assured that the work I do with children as a play therapist really can make a difference to their brain development in a positive way.
A question was asked to Dan Hughes, a well-respected clinical psychologist from America, who was part of this training:
‘CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service) has told me my child is ‘too special’
to receive support from them. What do I do?‘
We are very fortunate in our country to have the NHS system, but as with all areas of health, the resources are bursting at the seams and not everyone receives the support and help they may need. This can be very frustrating for those that need the support but do not tick all the correct boxes. With more and more children and young people being referred to CAMHS, not all children are able to be seen or given support.
I have to say I was surprised by Dan’s response to this question, as he didn’t see this as a problem. His response was, that now the parent knew this information, it was up to her to now find the alternative! I think with the differences in our two countries healthcare systems, with America’s private industry and ours not, it can take a while to understand it from Dan’s point of view. In Britain it is our right and expectation to access the healthcare we need on the NHS. We pay into the system and so should be able to access it when needed. However, until huge reforms are made due to lack of funding, we need to ‘look outside the box’ and I think this is what Dan was hinting at. If the help isn’t there what do you do? I realised at that point that practitioners like me, who specialise in specific forms of therapy and mental health, are what Dan is calling ‘the alternative’. Yes, it means paying privately for this service, but at least there is a service that can meet your child’s needs. We are often lone practitioners who care passionately about the work we do, train and work hard to develop our specialisms and can make a difference in your child’s life.
I have studied and worked long and hard to become an expert working with children. I am a certified play therapist with PTUK (Play Therapy UK), which recognises and values the experience I have as a therapist. I work as a private practitioner because I am free of bureaucracy and really can put the child at the heart of the work I do. I work with every child and family as an individual. My only aim is to help a child and family in their time of need. I am here for you, when you need me, listening to you.
Non directive play therapy is not a ‘quick fix’. In fact I cannot fix your child at all as your child is not broken. Every child is different who has a wealth of experiences they have learnt from and gone through. For some children these experiences have been difficult and hard and they need support to help them find the resilience they need to keep moving through their life journey. I can’t take away what they have experienced but I can help them understand themselves, accept themselves and look forward to the life they have to come, which will still involve many ups and downs.
This takes time and one of the main principles in play therapy is to not rush the child. Relationships are key to life, and this is the same within therapy too. Some children take longer than others to build up trust in their therapist and this is an important part of the process. If the child cannot trust me, how can I help them feel safe and secure in the knowledge that they are a wonderful individual who deserves respect and to be listened to? If I rush your child, I am not fully accepting of him/her and that will harm our relationship. The parent needs to learn to trust me, trust their child and more importantly trust the play therapy process.
Although I am not governed by bureaucracy, play therapy has a growing evidence base that proves it does work. I use a behavioural screening test, both pre and post therapy, to show the change that has taken place in a child’s behaviour. This document, is well used within the professions of mental health for children and these scores produce a snap shot into what is happening in a child’s life at that specific time. These scores then predict how many sessions of play therapy would benefit this child. It is for this reason that if a child scores highly, showing they have a high mental health need, that many play therapy sessions are needed. What is the benefit to the child, if I begin working with them, build up a level of trust, but then walk away before the real work begins? It’s like putting a cast on a child’s broken leg, but taking it off before the leg has healed. Long term this can do more damage than good. Just as you would trust a doctor with how long that cast is needed, trust me in helping determine how many sessions of play therapy are needed. Some broken bones take longer to heal than others, and some children take longer to heal mentally too.
I may be a certified play therapist, but that doesn’t mean I have stopped learning. I continue to attend relevant training, having also recently refreshed my Safeguarding training to Level 3. As part of being on the professional standards accredited register for play therapists I ensure I complete over 30 hours each year of CPD (Continued Professional Development).
The training in London I attended back in November was titled ‘Brain Based Parenting’, but much of the theory also applied to play therapy too. Understanding how important relationships are to the developing child, needing care from a parent, enables a child to show trust back which is vital for good brain development. If there is ‘blocked care’, a parent unable to show a child care, this can result in ‘blocked trust’ in a child, a child unable to trust their parent, which ultimately does not give the best environment for a brain to get fired up and ready to develop. I can help show parents how to care, and I can help children to know it is ok to trust adults.
I do care passionately about the work I do and I have a great belief that play therapy really can make a difference to your child. If you would like more information on how I can help or play therapy in general, please do get in touch with me on 07950859971 or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org