Play is the beginning of knowledge.
This anonymous quote, quite simply, tells the story of 10-year-old Tiffany’s* experience with Cunningham's HopeSpring Counseling Services.
While living with her mother and stepfather, Tiffany was often blamed for wrongdoings, punished without reason and watched her mother suffer emotionally. It was not until she and her mother moved away from her stepfather that Tiffany felt more at ease. But, as time passed, some of Tiffany’s fears arose again from the trauma she suffered while living in an unhealthy home environment.
"Tiffany began feeling overwhelmed in crowded places and anxious at school and around her stepfather’s other children," Allie, her therapist at HopeSprings, said. "She was unable to sleep alone, was struggling with her hygiene and was frequently preoccupied with fears and thoughts of seeing her stepfather."
In sessions with Allie at HopeSprings, Tiffany rarely liked to talk about her feelings, but she did enjoy art activities and playing in the sensory room. During one therapy session, Tiffany was being especially avoidant of staff, so she and Allie began playing in the sensory room instead of talking. Tiffany migrated toward the dinosaurs and the doll house, so Allie utilized play therapy techniques like role play and visualization to connect her play with her wishes for a "dream family." Play therapy utilizes play, children's natural medium of expression, to help them express their feelings more easily through toys instead of words.
Tiffany shared with Allie who each toy person represented and then continued to play independently. When Tiffany had a dinosaur arrive and try to tear the family apart, Allie helped her understand the connection between the dinosaur and the person she fears seeing again, her stepfather.
As sessions continued, Tiffany was able to work through some of her anxiety through play, which helped her develop courage and allowed her to have faith that she and her mother would always protect one another from the "dinosaur."
"Play has really helped Tiffany open up and share," Allie said. "She is now comfortable verbally speaking or writing her emotions surrounding this traumatic experience and is slowly taking her own steps towards feeling like a loved and cared-for child again."
Tiffany is now attending school more regularly, developing and maintaining a personal hygiene routine and continuously working to find ways to combat her sleep anxiety. She has gone from weekly sessions to biweekly sessions due to her progress.
Whether it’s individual or group sessions in office or virtually, services for students in a school setting, or in-home therapy, HopeSprings can help. Learn more.
*name has been changed to protect privacy