The True Heroes of Play Therapy

I recall a great sense of relief when I opened my play therapy practice following COVID at the end of July 2020. I missed seeing my clients every week and it weighed heavy on my heart knowing there was more and more children waiting to start, struggling with day to day life that had become a new normal. There was a lot of new safety measures to think about alongside longer times between each session to ensure adequate cleaning and preparing for each child having their arts and craft box and sand tray.

Staring back after several months of lockdown fully booked and knowing the ever-growing of mental health needs of my clients was felt like a great responsibility. I felt obliged to fully submerge myself in their therapy world and have time for not only reflection but also recharging my batteries to ensure I was fully present for each child and with this I decided not to post on social media and put all my concentration into therapy.  

This has resulted in quite a long break from social media; eight weeks in fact and finally I am feeling ready to input in my small way to the digital world yet again. As I thought about my first post I started reflecting on the honour I held sitting beside so many children and families and being asked question, advice, my opinion I felt I wanted to use a digital platform about my experience as my introduction back.

I reflect sitting for the first weekend for my play therapy course, sitting in a room full of people I’d never met before about to embark on a Post Graduate Certificate in Play Therapy. It was something I knew very little about, only that it helped to heal children. I recall brimming with excitement as the first day progressed and hour by hour I learnt more about what a play therapist does and the deep healing that it brings to children, I knew that day in my heart I had found my calling for life.  

I realised very quickly I wanted to open my practice and that it would be a heart job, working from heart to heart rather than a business. When people ask me what my job is and I tell them that I work with children who are struggling to cope with life every day, oftentimes they have experienced trauma the usual response I get is, “That must be hard, I don’t how you could do that.” I have to say that’s not how I see it, it’s not the posture of my heart.  

I feel it is my absolute privilege and honour to get to sit beside children and families, help them navigate hard times, to answer questions and help them to piece together behaviours, anger, fear from their children, all of which are just symptoms of something deeper. Being trusted to sit beside a child and be part of their healing journey and for each child to sit beside me and feel safe to heal, to do the hard work needed for them to find freedom is something I will never take for granted.

I hear the things that families don’t normally speak about to others but yet somehow they trust me enough to tell me hard things. It’s usually a great sigh of relief for parents and children to know that they are not alone, to understand what is happening and know that there is always hope for healing no matter what the situation. Many times bringing it to the light it never seems as bad as they first thought. Often I find parents are too hard on themselves and their expectation on their child is too high, but that comes from their own experiences there is never any judgment, we are where we are.  

In my eyes, children are the heroes of their therapy journey, as a play therapist, I facilitate and hold the space but it’s the child that turns up week after week and do the hard work to heal and realign their body – that’s a privilege for me to watch, to sit beside. It is always a joyous process after the hard work when layer after layer the true child starts to emerge grasping tight a newly found strong identity and awareness where their place is in this world.

At WayMaker Child Therapy we are curious about every child, every parent, every family and every situation. We invite children and parents into a safe nurturing environment to begin a journey of transformation entering into a child’s world through the healing power of play. 

Eileen Russell


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