Freaking Out, Brain Science, and Resetting Your Body

Racing heart. Sweat. Labored breathing, Uncontrollable crying. Chest tightening. You feel like you're going to DIE. Your body is reacting to perceived danger in your brain. Your unconscious mind has picked up a signal that you are unsafe and your body needs to activate for protection. When your brain senses danger, a messenger relays that information to your amygdala from your brain stem before your cerebral cortex can process it and make sense of it logically. The message is Fight. Flight. or Freeze. 

What are "threats" or "perceived dangers" to the brain?

1. Threats to basic human needs both physiological and safety needs. Not only are traumatic experiences threatening, but physiological and love needs can also trigger a response. H.A.L.T stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Are you feeling any of these?

2. "Shoulds." The "shoulds" are expectations you tell yourself. I should be more...I should have done this...I shouldn't be like that...I should...I should...I should. Go ahead--start writing a list of your "shoulds" as you realize them. We all have the "shoulds."

3. The Unknown. The unknown can be frightening. The unknown of the future. Of the unexpected. Of how your body will respond. Of outcomes. Unpredictability. Really, the unknown can go on for infinity.

4. Contradictory Messages in the Environment: Mixed messages in an environment are threats to the brain. Double standards. Unpredictability. For example: A parent who either encourages or "forces" a child to do an activity, and then criticizes his effort. Or a partner who is a completely different person under the influence of alcohol. 

5. Implicit Memories. These are memories that rise to the "surface" of the brain, although are not recognized as a memory. It is when something happening now stirs up a memory from the past when you felt similarly--even though the current situation may be completely different. There is no time stamp either. For example, a scent associated with a past event may bring about an emotional response, yet the individual is unaware that scent was associated with the memory.

Dysregulation vs Defiance

This physical response to a perceived threat is called dysregulation, and it happens to both children and adults. The difference for a child though, is typically, he/she does not have the tools and skills to express this intense whirlwind. He/she often shuts down or acts out in order to release or suppress that energy. What may look like defiance is actually a physiological response to perceived danger. Defiance is intentional and motivated by a desired outcome. Dysregulation is governed by the nervous system. Try telling a dysregulated nervous system that "there is nothing to be afraid of" or to simply "calm down." Or "he just needs a spanking." It's like sending an email through the mailbox in your front yard. You're sending a message through the wrong channels in the brain. 

Symptoms of Dysregulation

We are all very much aware when a dysregulated individual is in a hyper-aroused state: Aggression, disorganized, alert, excessive motor activity, uncontrollable, irritable, anxious. 

But, a hypo-arousal state looks and feels much differently. It's easier to misperceive. Tired, automatic obedience, appears life-less, non-expressive, numb, lack of motivation, isolated, helplessness.

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Respond More Effectively

Mindfulness is key. Mindful awareness practices activate and harness the power of the prefrontal cortex in order to respond more effectively. As you repeatedly practice something, that state becomes a trait. You rewire your neurons. How cool is that?! Daniel Siegel discusses this here. 

Mindfulness is simply recognizing what's going on inside (our internal experience) in order to shift our internal experience. When we are more aware of what is happening on the inside, then we have more freedom to make a different choice in our response. This self-awareness allows people to stay connected to themselves in overwhelming moments. Self awareness allows the brain to think rationally, thus giving more choice and control over a response. Modeling is the best way to teach mindfulness. Check in with yourself throughout the day, particularly with your body. Notice what is happening to your body in regards to temperature, sensations, and movement. What parts are tight or clenched? What parts are relaxed? Notice and breathe. We want our mind to be an active participant--when we bring our attention to our body, our brain is less likely to "jump to conclusions" about what is happening in the situation or in the environment. The more we model and teach our children to be mindful of the body, overtime, patterns that we have been stuck in, will begin to soften and release.

Reset your body 

Grounding exercises are designed to bring your awareness into the present moment which reminds our bodies that we are actually safe from harm. Adrenaline and cortisol then can be reduced.

Grounding exercises are designed to bring your awareness into the present moment which reminds our bodies that we are actually safe from harm. Adrenaline and cortisol then can be reduced.

When we change our perceptions, we change the symptoms in our nervous system.
— Lisa Dion, The Play Therapy Institute of Colorado

Lisa Dion compiled a list of activities to help return our bodies to a more regulated state.

  • Run, jump, spin, dance, bounce on yoga ball, crash into something soft, roll on the floor
  • Sit in a chair and push up by straightening arms
  • Massages, deep pressure on your arms and legs
  • Eat something crunchy
  • Drink through a straw
  • Take a bath/shower
  • Wrap up in a blanket
  • March or sing during transitions
  • Play music
  • Carry something heavy
  • Do a wall push up, or press hands together firmly
  • Run up/down steps
  • Hang upside down
  • Play sports
  • Doodle
  • Hold a fidget (koosh ball, rubber band, silly putty)
  • Dim the lights/Turn on the lights
  • Swing
  • Yoga
  • Breathe

Seek Professional Help

A healthy and effective therapeutic relationship with a counselor will provide an opportunity for you to examine and understand your perceived threats in a safe, empathic relationship and environment. For children, therapy involving play, sand, and activities will increase self-awareness, acceptance,  regulation, and self-control. A therapeutic relationship can connect at both the brain and heart levels that promotes new growth and neural pathways in the brain as well as heal any hurts in the heart.

 

 

 

The Play Project

The Play Project is a public awareness initiative developed by The Playroom Lubbock to encourage play, movement, and mindfulness in our kids' lives. Play is how our kids make sense of the world. Many of you have an impact in children's lives through play. The message we want to send is that play and mindfulness is an integral part of life for communicating, coping, adjusting, and discovering. At The Playroom Lubbock we provide therapy solutions for kids using play based interventions to help them fulfill their purpose in this life.

TShirt Designs by Kelly Martin, LPC of The Playroom Lubbock and Regina Penney of Penney Photography and Design.

How does the counselor involve parents?

Parents are a vital piece to the child's process in play therapy. Here at the Playroom Lubbock, the parents and I work alongside each other during the course of treatment. I usually tell parents when I first meet with them that when they sign their child up for play therapy, they are also signing themselves up for a form of counseling or treatment as well. Vulnerability and personal growth for the parents is just as important to the child's therapy process as is the child's play "work" in the therapy playroom.

One of my favorite authors and speakers, Bob Goff, recently provided this anecdote. One of his favorite things about visiting England was the red double decker buses. When he first saw one he was so excited that he took a picture of it. (See red picture). He was so close to it he lost sight of what it really was. Sometimes we need to back up our perspective so that we can see the whole picture. This is what the process is like for parents. I walk along side them in this process, backing up to see the whole picture, gaining insight, adjusting perspectives.

To help ease your concerns or perhaps fears of your role in the process, I will outline below how I involve parents.

1. Initial parent consultation session. This is the very first session with the counselor, but without the child. It lasts an hour. We will discuss history, concerns, and what progress you would like to see made with your child. I will also explain the therapy process as well as my practice policies and your privacy.

2. Follow up parent consultation session. These typically occur after every 3 sessions that I see your child. Before the session I will send a confidential electronic Parent Report Form where you have the opportunity to rate the stress level, rate the overall progress level, state what changes have occurred in the child's life, and voice concerns or questions you still have.

During the parent consultation meetings you, the parent, will have the opportunity to discuss changes, progress, and concerns.

The counselor (I) will cover these 4 topics: Positives, Themes, Goals, and Strategies

Positives: I will give you positive feedback regarding your child's behavior, emotions, or progress of therapy.

Themes: I will loosely discuss play themes that I have observed over the last few sessions. Play themes are dominant or recurring themes within a child's play. I observe a child's feelings during play, intensity of play, the child's level of including the counselor, a child's level of connectedness, self control, problem solving capabilities, etc. As discussed in the initial Parent Consultation and in your Informed Consent forms, I remind parents of the value of the therapeutic relationship and the trust that develops between the child and me. I will only talk about a child's play to parents in vague terms, not giving many details or specifics. I ask that parents trust that I will communicate to them any "red flags" or concerns that I have regarding the child.

Goals: Based upon parent/school feedback, parents concerns, my observances in the playroom, and the play therapy process, I communicate goals or areas that I would like to see improvements in your child's behavior, emotions, self concept, etc..

Strategies: We will discuss strategies for you to use at home to facilitate and support the goals. These strategies may be in the form of suggesting a book to read or may be more direct suggestions of ways of responding or interacting with your child.

I value the parent child relationship and fully acknowledge that the parent is more of an expert regarding his child than I am. Many times parents will ask me, "Why is that? or What does that mean?" Many times there could be a biological, neurological, psychological, or developmental explanation. Other times, I may not know "why." And I will never pretend to know "why." Sometimes the answer is "I do not know. Let's trust the process."

First and foremost I want to communicate to both the parent and the child: I am here. I hear you. I understand. I care. Relationship is the vehicle for change.

For further reading, check out Collaboration with Parents in Play Therapy

 

Who is our ideal client?

The opposite role of being a helping professional is the private practice business owner role. I am often asked to define, "Who is your ideal client?" Legitimately and appropriately asked, the answer depends on the service I am providing. My general response would be "any child or adolescent, ages 3-17, who is struggling emotionally or behaviorally or who may have difficulties in the future due to a life event or circumstance." These kids may benefit from play therapy counseling or a support/educational group where they have the opportunity to:

Develop responsibility, problem solving skills, confidence, and respect and acceptance of self and others

Learn to communicate, creatively think, express emotion.

Relieve stress, cultivate empathy, enhance social skills

If a child or teenager has difficulty or may develop a difficulty with any of the above AND it is beginning to cause stress within the family or negatively affect the child's functioning at home, at school, at work, or in the community, then it is worth calling The Playroom Lubbock for a phone consultation to see if our services are appropriate for your needs.

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The more important question as a helping professional is, "What are the ideal conditions for change?" As a child-centered play therapist, I believe the child, through play therapy, comes to form an appropriate understanding of his world and of himself. I help the parents understand their child's world through collaboration with them. Of utmost importance is the quality of the relationship between the client and therapist. The vehicle of change within the therapeutic relationship relies on these 4 messages conveyed to the child: I am here. I hear you. I understand. I care.

The ideal question for parents is "Who is the ideal helping professional for my child?" Parents should create a checklist of concerns and questions to ask such as: "What's the therapist's background or training working with children? How often do you meet with parents? How long do children stay in therapy? What can this therapy do for my child?" Partnering with a therapist or counselor is ideal. Parents know their child best, and the more information parents can gather and communicate, the better. Therapy for your child is not only a financial investment (of research and evidence based practices), but more importantly, an emotional and quality of life investment for both the parents and child. Therapy requires a parent's commitment to maintain appointments, to partner with the therapist, and to be open to change and to where the child steers the direction of therapy. 

As I mentioned before, our "ideal client" will be different depending on the service. We provide continuing education for professionals and training for parents. We will also speak to groups of kids, adults, educators, or community professionals. In the near future we will be expanding our therapy services to include speech, occupational, music, or art therapies which all address specific needs and all have their own "ideal clients."

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A Different Kind of Playroom

Here at the Playroom Lubbock we have 2 Play Therapy rooms for using in child counseling or child play therapy. These playrooms, at first glance, may seem like a kid friendly room with toys, however, the play therapist's selection and placement of toys is deliberate and based upon sound rationale.

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Children are more likely to feel comfortable in places where a sense of openness exists that says to the child, ‘You are free to use what is here. Be yourself. Explore.’
— Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry Landreth

We have thoughtfully selected the toys of our playrooms so that children will feel a sense of openness and interest rather than caution or hesitancy. The toys and play materials facilitate a wide range of creative, exploratory, and emotional expressions without the expectation of children talking or verbalizing. Mechanical and electronic toys do not allow for children's expressions and therefore are not included in our playrooms.

We want toys to support these essentials of play therapy as cited in Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry Landreth.

Establishing a positive relationship between child and counselor

Expressing a wide range of feelings

Exploring real-life experiences

Reality testing of limits and boundaries

Developing a positive self-image

Developing positive self-understanding

Developing self-control

The three main categories of toys in our playrooms include real life toys, aggressive-release toys, and toys for creative expression and emotional release. Below are pictures of our play therapy playroom for children ages 3-10. Soon we will give you a peak into our playroom for older kids and teenagers.


Aggression or Grace?

If childhood bullying, aggression, emotions, or boundaries peak your interest, continue reading. As I read about current research, I wanted to make a connection for you about 2 articles I read. The first article about childhood aggression cites research that suggests when a child believes he or she is being threatened by a person who that child perceives is purposefully showing hostility, that child is likely to react with aggression. (Hypervigilance May Lead to Aggression) The study also indicates that the more a culture teaches children to be defensive, the more aggressive children are in that culture.

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Are we teaching our kids to react defensively or to respond forgivingly?

Perhaps we should take a look at the second article regarding attachments and boundaries. Boundaries are important to protect one's self. Children often learn boundaries from the adults in their lives. (Attachment Revisited: 7 Red Flag Signs of Poor Boundaries).

Healthy boundaries often result from healthy attachment in early life.
— Tamara Hill, MS, blogs.Psychcentral.com

Further more, healthy attachment results in high emotional intelligence (or the ability to manage emotions). If a child lacks boundaries, it will be difficult to tell others how they feel. They may begin to feel trapped or overwhelmed. As the first article suggests, if a child perceives someone to be threatening, he is likely to react aggressively.

How do I socialize my child to be forgiving?

For starters, you can model healthy attachment and boundaries so that your child can respond with grace and truth towards others. 

Grace includes support, resources, love, compassion, forgiveness, and all of the relational sides of God’s nature. Truth is the structure of life.
— Boundaries with Kids, Cloud and Townsend. Pg 67-68
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Expressive Arts in Counseling

At the Playroom Lubbock we offer individual and group counseling to kids and teens. You've probably heard us talk about play therapy (using toys as a safe medium for expression) and sandtray (using toys/figures in the sand), but what is "expressive arts" that we talk about?  Quite simply, expressive arts is an opportunity to use the arts to safely express oneself and through the process, learn by doing. It uses the arts as a basis for discovery and change. The arts can include art materials, dramatic play, acting, music, dancing, or other artful movements. The emphasis is on the process rather than the product. No previous art background is needed.

 

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When will expressive arts be used at The Playroom Lubbock?

Kids in individual counseling have the opportunity to spontaneously engage in expressive arts because of the assortment of expressive arts materials and toys available to them in the therapy playrooms. The counselor may also incorporate expressive art activities into group counseling or kids groups.

How does the creative process produce change?

Carl Rogers explains that under certain conditions, a person (child) is free to be creative, to be himself, and be open to a new experience of self awareness and change. 

If offered in a safe, empathic, non-judgmental environment, it is a transformative process for constructive change.
— Natalie Rogers in "Giving Life to Carl Rogers Theory of Creativity"

The counselor 1. accepts the child as having unconditional worth 2. listens with empathy and shows understanding of the child through nonverbals and reflective statements 3. provides a non judgmental climate by not making evaluative or critical statements regarding the child or what the child is doing.

The counselor trusts the process that the child (with the help of a safe therapeutic relationship) will take his/her experiences, perceptions, and potential where and when the child needs. *However, there are boundaries and limit setting which can be explained in an entirely other blog post.

A child's expressive art is an image or metaphor representing a child's perspectives, experiences, desires, fears, and goals. Once a child feels emotionally safe and psychologically free, he is able to blossom.  It is through the process of creativity that a child gains awareness, resolve, and ideas to move forward. It is not through a counselor's interpretation or analysis of a child's creative product that brings change.

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What is the ultimate goal for counseling?

You may have very specific goals for your child. For example, control his temper, obey the rules, not be so impulsive, not be anxious, play better with others, learn social skills, etc...Play therapy, expressive arts, and sandtray therapy will address all of those. However, the ultimate life goals for kids (and adults) is to 1. adjust, change, and seek new experiences 2. be yourself in the present moment 3. trust yourself to make the right choices and take responsibility for your choices and 4. treat others with positive regard, respect, and love.

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Anger Serves a Purpose

What We Know about Anger:

1. Anger is a natural emotion that varies in intensity.

2. Physiological and biological changes occur with anger (heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and noradrenaline increase)

3. Some kids are more easily angered than others. This can be a result of genetics, sociocultural factors (for example, not being allowed to display the emotion), or family background.

People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration.
— Turner, Erlanger. "Tips on Helping Your Child Cope with Anger." Psychology Today, April 10, 2013

4. Subtle forms of anger in children may include pouting, sulking, and whining.

5. Anger can be a response to danger, a form of self-expression, or a declaration of independence. It can also be a symptom of being hungry, tired, or lonely.

6. Emotions under the surface of anger could be: embarrassment, annoyance, shame, guilt, grief, nervousness, insecurity, disappointment, frustration, helplessness, jealousy, regret, hurt, pressure, rejection, fear, inadequacy, or loneliness. 

Anger serves a purpose to communicate a child's unmet need. Through being aware, listening, teaching, modeling, and accepting the emotion, anger can be productive rather than destructive. Relieving rather than damaging. Insightful rather than unacceptable. Motivating rather than suppressing.

Strategies for Purposeful Anger for Children

1. Listen, Listen, Listen. Listening may include increasing your awareness prior to any outbursts of anger. What or who has changed for the child in the environment? What other feelings is the child showing? Any other physical symptoms? What is your child doing differently from his/her typical responses or routines? Listen, Listen, Listen also means the obvious for verbal kids: Listen to his/her story without any interruptions or suggestions.

2.  Teach and Model: Teach your child to identify the physical responses of anger: feeling hot? heart racing? eyes tearing up? fists clenching? grinding teeth? Put a name to feelings: decide on a feeling name for those responses and put it to use: "I am feeling so ________." Or "You're feeling really ______." Model your own anger managing behaviors by expressing the feeling, verbalizing how you will calm down, and verbalizing your choices.

3. Calm Down: Use some calming strategies when your child feels the symptoms of anger. Ideas are: taking deep breath, blowing into a pinwheel, blowing bubbles, squeezing silly putty, drinking a glass of water, playing alone, shaking sensory bottles, throwing wet sponges outside, stomping on an empty egg carton, drawing, journaling, doodling, listening to music, taking a walk, screaming in a pillow, etc. Giving your child calm down choices helps to reduce frustration, especially frustration that is a result of feeling of powerlessness or helplessness. If your child is feeling out of control and at risk of hurting himself or another person, separate her from that person or from a room/objects that aren't safe. Stop the action and restore safety. We love these 26 phrases for calming down an angry child: Click Here

4. Give Choices: This really only is helpful when a child has calmed down and all physiological responses have decreased. Look for possible solutions that may include compromising or apologizing.

5. Set Limits: Remind your child of limits to aggression. For example, "Hands aren't for hitting. If you choose to hit, you choose to not play right now." "Our family rules about cussing at people are ______. You can choose to write out your thoughts or doodle in your notebook. If you choose to cuss at your sister you choose to ___________(insert consequence)." If your child continues to break the limit, follow through with the consequence. 

6. Teach empathy and forgiveness: Children need your help with learning empathy. Without using guilt or shame, talk  about what another person's perspective might be. What are some options of expressing herself about her own perspective? Regarding forgiveness, apologies  can help kids move from guilty feelings to hopeful feelings that they can do better. Reassuring your child of your love communicates that their anger or angry behavior doesn't make him a bad kid or an unloved kid.

When Anger is Crying for Help

When anger persists and interferes with relationships with family or friends, remember that the purpose of anger is to communicate an unmet need. Are there threats to safety? Deep tensions in the family? A  developmental delay in language or social skills? Some kind of loss? If you're concerned about your child's anger, discuss this with a mental health professional. You're welcome to start with us at The Playroom Lubbock.

More on Brain Science and Resetting Your Body

Check out our other article here about the neurobiology behind anger, anxiety, and dysregulation.

 

Let Children Color Their Perception of Therapy

You've made the first step and made an appointment with a child/adolescent counselor. You may have showed up a little apprehensively to the initial intake appointment with the counselor/therapist. After you realize the counselor wants to support your efforts as a parent (you are, after all, the primary influence over your child's life) and the counselor "hears you out," it occurs to you that you have to think of a way to tell your child he/she is going to therapy. In fact, let's just cut out the word "therapy." Add "fix your problems," "bad feelings," "disobeying" to the list of What Not to Say. "Ideally, it is best if the child is allowed to develop their own impressions of the therapist and what therapy is all about from actual experiences in the playroom" (Killough McGuire, D. and McGuire, D, 2001. Linking Parents to Play Therapy. NC: Taylor and Francis). We hope our name, The Playroom, provides a sense of comfort and familiarity for your child so that he feels safe and free to form his own impressions.

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So How do You say It?

McGuire and McGuire in their book Linking Parents to Play Therapy suggest parents tell their child (depending on developmental level) something like this: "This is a time for you to play in a room full of toys and things you like to do with someone who really cares about you" (p. 16). As necessary, the therapist can also provide further information to the child. Another way to phrase this for an older child would be:

It’s a safe place to find support and an unbiased adult to listen.
— Kate Leyva, LMFT Contributing to Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Common Things Parents Say to Their Kids About Therapy That Aren't Helpful. Psych Central.com

Communicate with Feeling Words

When your child comes out of a session reflect his/her emotion. "You're really excited coming out of there." "You seem to feel quiet." "You're feeling ready to go!" You can also respond with a feeling to any questions they may have: "You're curious that_____." "You're wondering if ______."

Communicating about their Art/Creations

At times your child may bring home something he/she created. It is important to view their creation from their therapy session as a page out of a journal. It can be very private and emotional. Be mindful that your child may choose not to talk about it. If your child is eager to show you (and quite honestly you may have no idea what you are looking at), you can say "Tell me more about that." You can focus on details of what he or she did: "You put those colors right there." "Looks like you spent a lot of time on that." "You drew this here and that over there." Or if a child asks you if you like it, you can respond with, "What's important is if you like it. What do you think about it?"

Communicate with Nonverbals

Dr. Kay Sudekum Trotter, PhD, LPC-S, suggests that when you stay in the waiting room instead of running errands during a session, you nonverbally communicate that "you're so important to me that I will be here the whole time supporting you." (Tartakovsky, M. (2015) Common Things Parents Say to Their Kids about Therapy that Aren't Helpful. Retrieved from PsychCentral.com)

Communicate Privately with the Therapist

It is important to be mindful of little listening ears. Talking about your child's progress or lack there of, or more specifically the problems you want to see addressed, in front of the child, may lead to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, and shame.

What NOT to Communicate:

The following list of common comments that parents make may isolate your child or negatively color their perception of therapy or the therapist.

The therapist is going to help you with your problems. You need help”
”We can’t help you anymore because your problems are too big.”
”We have to go to therapy because your dad or mom left us.”
”You need to go to therapy because since the divorce you have been really emotional and difficult to deal with.”
”Your therapist is going to be so disappointed in you for doing___”
Speaking to therapist: “Maybe you can help _____with learning how to better control his emotions when he doesn’t get his way.
— Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Common Things Parents Say to Their Kids about Therapy that Aren't Helpful. Retrieved from PsychCentral.com

 

In Conclusion

Parents are very well meaning in their communication with kids. Hopefully these suggestions provide another perspective about how your words can and should encourage your child and therapeutic play.

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Collaboration with Parents in Play Therapy

At The Playroom Lubbock we provide optimal and collaborative therapy solutions. Collaboration begins and continues with parents/caregivers. Parents or primary caregivers know their child best. 

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How does collaboration with parents/caregivers work in Play Therapy or Child Counseling?

Before play therapy sessions with a child begin, the counselor will set up an initial parent consultation appointment (without the child present). During this consultation the parent will have the opportunity to share concerns and background information about the child.  The counselor will explain the therapy process/procedures and will provide a few forms to sign.

Parent consultations (again, without the child) will continue after each 3rd session with the child. These consultations allow the counselor to address the parent's concerns, allow parents to have a better understanding of the child, allow the therapist to share information regarding the child without breaking confidentiality, and allow both the counselor and parent to communicate progress.

At The Playroom Lubbock, we seek to also strengthen the parent/caregiver role. We believe parents and caregivers are a vital resource to understanding a child and for a child's progress. 

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Teenagers, Pit Stops, and Play Therapy

"Developmentally, the process where we travel from a world where we do not have to think about who we are or what we do (childhood) toward a destination where we must have the confidence that we can not only survive but also thrive in the multiple relationships and expectations of adult society....[Adolescence is] the overall task of moving out of childhood and preparing to engage in mainstream society as a peer with other adults." Chap Clark, D. Clark (2007). Disconnected Parenting: Teens in a MySpace World.

What a task and a road ahead for a teenager!  This road consisting of life events and experiences coupled with experiences of the past and paired with expectations and possibly fears of the future significantly affects adolescents. The emotional, physical, and hormonal changes of adolescents will alter the headlights of that adolescent vehicle and impact a teenager's ability to process and interpret social interactions. Further more, the challenges a teen with special needs has may be magnified during this developmental stage. 

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Any adolescent is fully capable of navigating through this road trip, especially with the support of peer relationships, parent involvement, and a developing positive image.

You, as parents, are fully capable of supporting your adolescent during this adventure. Pack your bags with suitcases labeled "my child" rather than "my child's problems." "The present" rather than "the past." "Feelings." "Understanding." "Accepting." As soon as you see yourself capable of this adventure, you will begin to see your teenager as capable of this adventure.

Relationships then, (with peers, parents, caregivers) are the vehicle for change. Conveying these messages to your teen "I am here," "I hear you," "I understand," and "I care" will equip your teen to recover from the bumps in the road or to get back on track from a detour. (Messages taken from Child Parent Relationship Therapy: A 10 Session Filial Therapy Model by Landreth, G., & Bratton, S.)

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Reality is that we have to service our vehicles. Sometimes getting your vehicle serviced means taking it into the shop to a professional. 1 in 5 adolescents will experience significant symptoms of emotional distress (Report on Adolescent Health: cdcinfo@cdc.gov).

Teenagers are likely to feel reluctant, suspicious, worried, intimidated, or even weird going to a professional such as a counselor. That is why the metaphor of taking a car into the shop or a "pit" stop to be able to get back on track is effective when talking to teens.

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"Play" provides a metaphor for teenagers to safely express what is bothering them without really having to talk about it. Play therapy with adolescents does not involve sitting on the floor together with a counselor playing baby dolls or army men. In play therapy with adolescents, the teen has the control what to reveal or keep hidden. Using play, sandtray figures, and expressive techniques will stimulate the teenager's desire and need to be expressive and create identity--which is central to this developmental stage. The positive therapeutic relationship that develops between a teenager and a counselor brings healing, forward movement, and relief of emotional stress. 

At The Playroom Lubbock we have Kelly Martin, a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist trained in play therapy. She has  a "playroom" designed for play or activity therapy for preteens and teens.  

Providing optimal and collaborative therapy solutions for kids--of any age. Of any ability.  

The New Playroom On the Block

Why "The Playroom Lubbock?" Because kids identify with the word "play" based upon their concept of the meaning of "play." And "playroom" to a kid means a room full of play. How great is that?! How is The Playroom Lubbock like any other youth gym or childcare? It's not. At The Playroom Lubbock, we will provide optimal and collaborative therapy solutions to children and adolescents to address their mental health, cognitive, physical, emotional, social, behavioral, or communication needs so that they can function at the highest level at home, in school, and in the community.

Our therapy services will include play therapy counseling, speech therapy, and behavioral interventions. We hope to offer occupational therapy in the future. Licensed therapists utilize "play" techniques in "playrooms." When a parent, caregiver, or therapist says to a child, "It's time to go to 'The Playroom," hopefully the child will feel a sense of comfort and familiarity.

A component of "optimal" therapy solutions is the therapist. The Playroom Lubbock is now accepting applications for office sublease by independent therapist practitioners and to become a part of The Playroom Lubbock therapist team. We are seeking office sublease applicants for Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, and Behavioral Specialists with experience with children with Autism.

Interested therapists may email kelly@playroomlubbock.com for more information. Serious applicants may send a resume, references, and a letter of interest.

As the new playroom on the block, we look forward to serving the community of Lubbock and surrounding areas.