Play Therapy Is Just For Kids....Right?
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation." ~ Plato
But now we're adults, so we should be able to think through our options and just figure it out, right? Sure, but let's use a technique that has served us our entire life and is more effective. Pretend for a minute that we were kids again. Remember summers? Playing all day with friends, spending time in nature and enjoying life to it's fullest. That's what really sticks with us. But if you think a bit harder, you might remember a few more lessons. Cheating at a game caused you to lose a friend, jokes made at other's expense don't feel so great when they are directed at you, and when you decide to build a fort it feels better to finish than give up. Thinking back we can see the seeds of the values we have come to live as adults honesty, empathy and determination.
When you cast your mind back to those younger times, you learned all of those morals by experiencing and doing. Think of how much time your family spent explaining the Golden Rule and other family values to you. I bet that you never really understood until you felt the repercussions of it playing out in your life. Humans learn through experiences and for this reason play is an integral method of learning.
Imagine a board game, there are concrete tasks to complete to play a game: rules to follow, sitting politely waiting your turn, and even skills like counting, adding, and recalling details. Then there are the abstract ideas - being a good player, a sore loser, a pompous winner. Play teaches us in childhood all the lessons we need for the rest of our life...not really. When we continue to play, we continue to grow.
If you think back to the interactions you've had with co-workers, you probably learned more about them when you had a project you had to complete together than all the conversations you had with them prior. You learned about their work ethic, ability to think around corners, and their coping mechanisms under stress. When we play, our true selves come to light. In that moment we can also make choices to see how we want to live - "No-one is listening to me, I might as well give up." We can make spit-second decisions on changing our old patterns and try something new. If it works out, great. "Maybe if I stand on the table, they'll listen to me!" If it doesn't, we will try something else. "Well, I got a lot of laughs, but no-one heard what I was trying to covey."
When adults come to work on issues they are dealing with, I often infuse play into our therapy. We tackle difficult subjects - trauma, grief, divorce, alienation and loneliness through play. Gradually, as we continue to engage in activities, people realize that they have grown into the person they wanted to be...all because of play! Next time you are struggling with living life on life's terms, try a game. It might be the most enlightening experience you've had lately!
If you are interested in how play can enliven your life, check out the Association for Play Therapy website for a list of local Registered Play Therapists or look for therapists with the initials RPT or RPT-S after their name. To schedule your free, 15 minute consultation reach out today, Marla@BergerCounselingServices.com or 561-866-3056.