Mar 29 / Dr. Carlos A Raimundo & Melanie Raimundo

The Play of Life with Children & Teens

The Constraints of Verbal Communication for Children & Teens

Let's start with a quick look at the brain:
The emotional and physical parts of the brain have been developing since birth, while the rational brain is newer and matures well after adolescence. So, in children and adolescents (whom we'll simply refer to as children), when emotions, especially those like fear, a sense of failure, confusion, or unfamiliarity, are experienced, the language centre hasn't matured enough to express these emotions accurately. This means that naming the emotions becomes nearly impossible for the child.
Consequently, the child may:
- React instead of respond, often called "acting out"
- Experience mental blockages
- Give short, one-word responses
- Have difficulty articulating their thoughts clearly.

3 Reasons to use the Play of Life with children & teenagers

Reason 1: It helps them better understand
and express their emotions and situation.
The Play of Life, rooted in Psychodrama, provides a tactile tool (also available digitally) that taps into the emotional brain, bypassing the need for complex verbal expression. This method appeals to children and teenagers as it offers them an alternative means of self-expression, aiding them in comprehending their situation and emotions.
During the process, instead of prompting with questions like "tell me more," the counsellor encourages the child to "show me", prompting the creation of visual images that reveal and share their inner world.

Reason 2: It accommodates time constraints.
School counsellors often face time constraints and uncertainty regarding future sessions with a child. Every moment becomes precious. The Play of Life, recommended for initial sessions, can assist in identifying the root cause of a child's issues. In only 10-15mins the child is able to visually convey what they’re facing, their perspective and/or how they feel about a certain relationship or situation. Regardless of the image presented, it provides invaluable insights for the counsellor and something tangible for the child to hold onto, regardless of their future engagement in therapy.

Reason 3: It fosters trust (Written by Melanie, a Youth Counsellor specialising in teenage NSSI)
This reason is particularly noteworthy for teens. Teenagers often find it challenging to trust adults, especially with matters as vulnerable as their inner world, which they may not even share with close friends or family.

The Play of Life gives them the chance to invite us into their world.

In verbal therapy, the therapist is the one leading, by mirroring and asking open or closed questions. Not only can this feel uncomfortable to teens as they may not even be able to articulate how they feel (due to their developing brain), but it can also feel invasive.

On the other hand, the Play of Life grants autonomy to teens, allowing them to reveal as much or as little as they wish. With proper facilitation, the method unveils what needs attention, regardless of attempts to conceal. The beauty of the Play of Life lies in its authenticity; it cannot be faked and it never lies. Even if a child (or adult client) tries to manipulate the process, correct facilitation ensures invaluable insights are gained to enhance the therapeutic journey.

All this being said, the Play of Life is an experiential tool and oftentimes is easier to be seen to be believed than taken at face value.

If you'd like to know more about the method, the accreditation process and/or its applications? Contact us to arrange a call with a senior practitioner or see our Free introductory course. 
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