Engaging adults in play therapy may be easier than you think. Here are 6 tips I’ve found that helps keep adults in engaged during play therapy.
Make Games and Toys Accessible
Quite by accident, I discovered adults would play with toys/games I missed during clean-up with child clients. As an experiment, I left out toys and games which more meaningful and found adult clients were far more willing to engage. The following items create conversations and easily engage the adult client in playful connection:
- Stuffed animal or domestic puppet
- Easy to master games (Checkers, Candyland)
- Crayons and construction paper
The presence of toys can spontaneously spark conversation regarding play and lost innocence. Clients presenting with childhood trauma may benefit from this exploration as they grief and process a myriad of unresolved childhood issues.
Address the Inner Child
Connected to the last point, toys may serve as a gateway for engaging in Inner Child therapy. Specifically, the therapist may encourage the client’s Inner Child to choose a toy or game they would like to play with to evoke the corrective experience play provides.
Create Structured Activity with Toy Props
Non-directive forms of play therapy are often overwhelming and stress-provoking for clients. Consider beginning with an activity enhanced by toys such as a Family Constellation with sandtray figures or structured puppet play.
Do you role-model playfulness in session? Do you approach play with adults with apprehension and doubt? Remember the role of attunement in the therapeutic process. Invite play with curiosity and ease to ensure client feels safe enough to venture into the vulnerable world of play.
Mind the Window of Tolerance
Watch for subtle signs of hypo- and hyper- arousal as you engage in play with adults. Play for many adults is very triggering. Work to slowly increase the capacity for joy, pleasure, and play!
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