Why I chose to become a Play Therapist
Many years ago, I had a child in my class who I really struggled to connect with. I just could not understand why he did the things he did. We would be busy in class and all of a sudden, he would start throwing toys across my classroom, pushing over chairs and screaming. I was a young teacher and I just had no idea what to do. I remember sitting in my classroom at the end of the day, crying into my cup of tea, and despairing because I knew I was failing this boy. I had no idea what was wrong, what I was doing wrong or how I could help him.
I have grown so much since then as a teacher, a leader, a wife, a mother, and a person. A lot of my growth has been as a result of personal reading and attending training sessions, but I often think back to that little boy because he set me on a course that led me to where I am today.
I decided that there had to be more that I could learn about why children do the things they do. Why do children have massive temper tantrums? Why do they cry at the drop of a hat? Why do they hit, kick, punch, and bite? Why can’t they tell you what is upsetting them? And most interestingly, why do some children grow up to be kind, empathetic, responsible young adults, and some do not? I wanted to know exactly what makes little children tick.
My journey began with Choice Theory, an incredible way of thinking that I use daily with my own son. My mind was opened to new ideas when I started researching positive discipline. I had to challenge my own upbringing and remind myself everyday not to fall back on the parenting style my mother chose. I had the opportunity to learn more about myself with 16Personalities and CliftonStrengths training.
Then I found Therapeutic Play, Play Therapy and Play Sense. Again, I was challenged to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about myself and about others. I learned about the neuroscience behind a child’s developing brain. I gleaned more about Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, Circle of Security Parenting, and the work of Melanie Klein, Dan Siegel, Axline, Vygotsky and so many more. I learned how to use symbols and metaphors to decipher children’s play. I learned how to come alongside a child and bear witness to the wonder that is their play. I learned to be in awe of children’s play.
Play…For me, play is really the answer to the questions I have been pondering for years. It is so true what Garry Landreth said about children – “Birds fly, fish swim and children play.” Children use play to learn, to explore, to communicate. It is their language; it is what they are programmed to do. Everything they do – they do through play. I’ve realised that If I want to know what is really happening in a child’s inner world, then I need to be fluent in play.
If I could go back and help that little boy in my class, I would ignore the carnage, get down closer to the ground, take a deep breath and say, “Come, let’s go play.”