Play Therapy

"Soul enters life from below, through the cracks,

finding an opening into life where functioning breaks down."

-- Thomas Moore 

Excerpt from, "The Handbook of Jungian Play Therapy," by Eric Green (Johns Hopkins University Press)

"The basic assumption (premise) underlying the Analytical (or Jungian) Play Therapy approach is an analyst facilitates an emotionally and physically safe environment to activate a child's individuation process ("becoming a whole psychological individual"). This occurs mainly through the two primary analytical techniques: (1) incorporating a symbolic or analytic attitude and (2) executing well-timed verbal interpretations. These are analytical attempts to activate and strengthen children's emotional connections to their rich interior life. A symbolic attitude occurs when an analyst provides sustained attention to images produced by a patient through dreams, fantasies, and identification to myth, music, and art. The symbolic attitude shifts the child from impulsiveness and affect/behavior dysregulation to containment and self-modulation of internal emotional states. 'Individuation' in childhood is illuminated through the transformation of the child's personal mythology and associated symbols in reconciling and balancing conflicting polarities. Specifically, the child's Self generates symbols or signs that point to areas neglected and in need of balance within the psyche. Psycho-therapeutic healing occurs when analysts and their patients traverse the psychological landscape and identify and embrace the unique personal mythology out of which the child (and often times within the context of the family system) is currently functioning.

Symbols, recurring signs, trans-cultural myths, fables, fairy-tales, fantastical legends, inter-generational traditions, and constructivistic "worlds" created in sand-play all harness the archetypal energy out of which self-healing may be activated. Through identifying one's own personal myths and choosing the path to follow one's bliss, children realize they are not alone in the psycho-dynamic underworld.

The final archetypal struggle in the underworld involves children discontinuing their unconscious projections of various parental introjects and/or 'shadows.' So the terrorizing monsters who lurk about in the dank forests no longer have the same impact or potential horrifying impact they once did. Children cleanse and "shadow box" the accumulated psychological pollution so that free and imaginative play can once again transport them to new and fantastical worlds of adventure and innocence. And for any of this to ever reach beyond the superficial and reach into the recesses of the child's soul, the analyst must change just as much as the child does. That is why on-going psychotherapy for therapists is absolutely critical. No one who does this type of work and plays with 'fire' does so without getting burned in some vulnerable spot which is why on-going consultation and analysis for therapists is required. Jung reminds us that true clinicians do not stand outside their work. We do not stoically leave children to their own destructive devices. But, we are right in the thick of it, supporting families and the key stakeholders in children's home and school environments to maximize their chances of success. As the alchemists hundreds of years ago taught us, when the flames turn white, the charred ashes of non-precious elements transmute into precious psychological gold."