The Cradle Blog

Non-Directive Play and The Cradle's Newest Therapy Space

The Cradle's Center for Lifelong Adoption Support has unveiled an exciting new therapy space. Filled with all the toys, books and games your child could imagine, as well as a puppet theatre and giant chalkboard, the non-directive play therapy room is officially open for Cradle counseling sessions.

What can you expect from a session in the Cradle's newest therapy room? 

After meeting with you to learn about your child, your child’s needs, and developing treatment goals, the play gets started with your child in the play therapy room. One of the first things Cradle Adoption Therapist Mandy Jones will do is ask your child, "What are we going to play with today?" Your child will guide most of the session, choosing what toys she plays with and whether or not she brings others into her world.

Says Mandy, children's primary language is not words, but play. "They create their own stories and worlds, and play through whatever is going on. Play makes sense to them."

In non-directive play therapy, the therapist will enter the emotional world of the child and work to understand it, rather than ask the child to understand the adult world. A room full of enticing new toys and activities, with multicolored walls and soft plush carpeting, acts as a comfortable, protective space for the child. It gives her the opportunity to work through her deeper feelings and wounds free of fear.

Non-directive therapy may not look much different from what your child does at home, explains Mandy. But, as your child plays, a therapist interprets her behavior, often guiding some of the play to understand what's behind the scenarios she creates.

"I might ask about the people a child plays with or draws," says Mandy. "What they are doing and thinking. Just guiding questions to help the child work through to the next level."

Parents may or may not be in the session, depending on the child's needs. Usually, play therapy is prescribed when issues are more internal to the child, rather than between them and their parents. Theraplay® is another form of play therapy, but it utilizes the parent-child relationship to bring about change rather than toys. 

Afterwards, a therapist will sit down and discuss with parents insights they've gleaned from the session, and how best to address their child's difficulties at home.

This method not only provides greater understanding of a child's world, but also can be highly therapeutic for the child. By unconditionally accepting their emotions and play, the therapist helps the child feel validated and understood. Still, as in daily life there will be boundaries, and if a child throws a toy, for example, a therapist will intervene in a gentle but firm manner. Setting boundaries such as this is also important in helping children see their environment as a safe space.

Non-directive play therapy is an excellent therapeutic method for addressing any number of difficulties such as adoption issues, social problems, fear and anxiety, selective mutism, depression, or grief and trauma, as well as less serious problems. As a whole, it's a great way to help your child feel heard, and for you to understand her internal struggles.

To schedule an appointment with Mandy, call 847-733-3225 or fill out our online form.