Hi, my name’s Brianna Henderson and I’m a licensed professional counselor and a registered play therapist at New Roots Counseling. Today, I wanted to let you know about what to expect as far as the phases of play therapy whenever you come in, that the amount of time that a kid is in play therapy, it can range, right? And so I think right now that the national average is like 30 sessions, but that also means it could be a lot shorter, a lot longer. But in general, we still have to see the same phases of therapy, of the therapy process.

The first one is The Initiation phase. This is when the child comes in and just gets used to the room. I’m new, the toys are new, they’re also exciting. Have you ever brought your kid to a place where there’s just toys everywhere?

And they’re like, oh my gosh. So whenever that happens, they need some time to adjust, and then they get used to everything and they get to know that I’m a safe person who will not judge or shame them. And that’s when the work can begin. It can only begin once they know that they’re in a safe place.

The next phase that we go through, or that a lot of kids go through is the Resistance Phase. This is the phase where kids realize, oh man, okay, this may be a place where I could start getting into my deeper stuff, right? And even as adults, we know that that’s uncomfortable. It feels weird. You question whether or not you actually want to go there. And this phase sometimes can last such a little amount of time. It could last half a session or it could last a couple sessions, or it really just depends on the child.

But during this phase, it’s also common to see behavior at home get worse before it gets better. This is completely normal, completely expected. And if that happens, just remember that this means your child is progressing. This means your child is working through their faces as they should be. So once the child realizes that they can handle this, that it’s going to be okay, that they’re willing to put it in the work, that’s when the Working Phase begins. So this is when the child is fully invested and they start working on skills to build their resiliency coping strategies.

And they learned a lot of self-regulation during that time. This is where they get to practice all of these things, figure out what works. So it doesn’t, with the help of the play therapist, this is when you’re probably going to see the most change in your child. And it’s really exciting, and this is the part that all parents love. But the fourth phase is not unimportant. So the fourth phase is Termination phase. And it can be easy to think, oh, well, if I’m seeing progress at home, if I’m seeing if everything’s good, then we can just quit. But termination is actually extremely important to your child because the relationship that we are going to form is going to be special. And whenever children have a special relationship like that, they really need a healthy goodbye because children experience so many random goodbyes to people throughout their life and it can lead to feelings of abandonment and just not really feeling sure of what that relationship was. That is one big reason that it’s important. And the other reason is that children need to feel like they can handle the real world without their play therapist because it is a scary place. And so that transition where they know, okay, we have five more sessions, four more sessions, three more, and we go through that, that’s when they start to build up that courage to know, I can do this, and I did the work, I did the change. I don’t need my therapist to help me to just be in the world now. And so those are all the reasons that termination is very important, and we ask that you let it happen. Even when you think your kid has done all the work and they’re doing amazing. I hope that helped you to understand the phases of play therapy a little bit more. If you have any questions, please reach out and we’d love to answer them for you!

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