Groups are not lectures, but entails play-based experiential group work.
Although many children benefit from individual therapy, in some cases group therapy is more effective.
Group therapy is not only cost effective but also contains certain key therapeutic factors:
- In group counselling relationships, children experience the therapeutic releasing qualities of discovering that their peers have problems, too, and a diminishing of the barriers of feeling all alone.
- Group members recognize that other members’ success can be helpful and they develop optimism and a sense of hope and empowerment.
- A feeling of belonging, trust and togetherness develops and new interpersonal skills are learned practically.
- In groups children are afforded the opportunity for immediate reactions and feedback from peers as well as the opportunity for vicarious learning.
- Group members have the opportunity to re-enact critical family/peer dynamics with other group members in a corrective manner.
- Children also develop sensitivity towards others and receive a boost to their self-concept through being helpful to someone else. For children who have poor self-concepts and a life history of experiencing failure, discovering they can be helpful to someone else may be the most profound therapeutic quality possible.
- In groups, children also discover that they are worthy of respect and that their own worth is not dependent on what they do or what they produce, but rather on who they are.
- Group members begin to accept responsibility for life decisions.
Play as a means towards emotional well-being
“To ‘play it out’ is the most natural self-healing measure childhood affords.” – Erikson, 1977
Playing is how children try out and learn about their world and is essential for healthy development. For children, play is serious, purposeful business through which they develop mentally, physically and socially.
Play helps them to discover who they are and who they are not. It teaches them how to identify, understand and manage emotions. Play is the child’s form of self-therapy through which problems, confusions, anxieties and conflicts are often worked through. Through the safety of play, children can try out their own new ways of being, practice roles and explore situations.
Play performs a vital function for the child. It is far more than just frivolous, lighthearted, pleasurable activity that adults usually make of it. Play serves as a symbolic language. Children communicate through play and activity. Play and expressive therapies serve to create a necessary therapeutic distance for clients who are often unable to express their pain in words.
Play and expressive therapies can be effective in overcoming resistance because they are generally non-threatening, engaging and captivating. Play overpowers verbalisation, rationalization and/or intellectualization used as defences.
Play and expressive media are effective interventions for traumatized clients since neuro-biological effects of trauma point to inhibitions on cognitive processing and verbalization. Traumatized children often experience loss of emotional, psychological and even physiological control. A crucial goal for these children is thus empowerment. Play is a child’s work and world. They are the experts in play, and can thus experience and regain a sense of mastery and control, through play.