Delivering virtual play therapy and neurodivergent-affirming, trauma-informed services in Florida and Vermont…
It can be hard to imagine play therapy online.
After all, how can you replace a physical playroom?
We will never try to keep a child out of a physical playroom, but we would love to invite them into a virtual one! With high demand, fewer specialists, and restrictive demands from insurance companies, it’s more important than ever to be creative and reach further in how we provide services.
Perhaps even more importantly, though, research affirms the effectiveness of virtual therapy.
We want you to know that we are completely transparent about this choice, discussing with you on an ongoing basis whether virtual play therapy meets your child’s needs. If an in-person therapist is a better fit for you and your family, we’ll do what we can to help you with your search.
We see parents as partners in the therapeutic process. We will always do what we can to connect you with the most appropriate resources for your child or teen, whether therapeutic groups, occupational/speech therapists, in-person services, etc.
We’re not replacing a playroom or in-person human interaction…
Instead, we’re creating a different kind of child and teen-led safe space where people of all ages can use figures, crafts, images, and songs to express and explore their innermost worlds.
Toys are our first words as children. When we are free to express ourselves in that primary language, we bypass many filters we develop later on as emotional protection. As tweens, teens, or adults, we may have already begun to view the world through these filters that help us to rationalize, reframe and protect ourselves from feelings that seem unfathomable; i.e., hurt, disappointment, insecurity, or rejection.
When giving ourselves and experiences meaning through specially selected figures (or toys!), our thoughts, feelings, and memories can be viewed more objectively and from different angles, revealing perceptions and hidden emotions we might not have been aware of. That separated view of our innermost selves projected onto the canvas of sandtray or art can create feelings of safety through distance. We can more easily move pieces (or ideas) around in concrete form to better “see” how our experiences have impacted us and shaped how we view the world.
Sandtray, expressive arts, and play allow us to process thoughts, feelings, and experiences, sometimes before we are even consciously aware of what we have internalized or how these moments have affected us.
You might think play therapy is just for children…
But it’s an approach enjoyed across the lifespan. Below are some of the engaging ways that virtual play therapy can be used with all ages:
Dyadic Therapy: We use dyadic therapy (when the caregiver and child work together) for the littlest ones.
We’ll explore your connection using “Watch, Wait, and Wonder,” a model where the infant takes the lead. With curiosity, we’ll investigate how one’s youngest treasure can so easily trigger dynamics from a caregiver’s attachment and childhood history.
Our focus will be on connecting to your baby mindfully – seeing, hearing, and being with them in the present moment.
Virtual play therapy with children can take many forms. Through a virtual playroom, children can artfully create collages of feeling, draw symbolic representations of their experiences, or make mandalas. They can tell stories with puppets or dollhouses. Or they can create virtual sand trays of their own worlds, where themes and patterns are easily expressed.
Other children prefer a more tangible play therapy experience that involves sandtray, toys, and art materials they can touch and build on their side of the screen. Your play therapist may invite you to gather specific miniatures and work with you to make your own sandtray at home for visits. Whether you prefer homemade or premade, we will help you find the best materials for your setting.
Similarly, paper and art materials are frequently used to playfully express thoughts, feelings, strengths, and ideas.
We will help you set up your device so that we can develop a fully interactive play therapy experience that your child will look forward to each week!
Tweens, teens, and adults…
Sandtray & Expressive Arts: It’s often assumed that play therapy is no longer appropriate beyond childhood. However, even after feeling they have “outgrown” toys, tweens and teens continue (as adults do) to be engaged by symbolic expressions of self and experience, as seen with sandtray and art activities.
Adults often create incredibly introspective sandtray worlds or art pieces that depict different aspects of their lives and provide insight upon reflection. Sandtray work does not require skill or planning, and it often surprises those who try it with the depth of their own interpretation once a tray is complete.
The best candidates for virtual play therapy…
… are communicative and motivated children, teens, and adults who understand their challenges and would like support.
Self-esteem, anger, anxiety, inattention, sadness, and various life transitions can be great targets for virtual play therapy.
Neurodivergent children (often to the surprise of their parents) are often fully engaged participants. These children may communicate quickly. When that pace is met in the virtual play environment, they can accomplish a lot and may be more likely to remain engaged. Alternatively, those who prefer symbols to words may feel at ease with chat features, emojis, and non-verbal communication.
Many (but not all) children respond well to virtual play therapy.
Those who switch screens rapidly in virtual settings or don’t acknowledge any current challenges may benefit more from a physical playroom. There, they can fully lead the interaction and explore the insights by allowing themselves to be led by the toys in that physical space.
We also believe that children going through a divorce transition benefit from having a play therapy space outside of either home, so they have a neutral safe space where they are not concerned about being overheard. Children going through such transitions are often highly cautious about their words being used by either parent (even if that has never happened) or causing disappointment for their parents. This caution can make it difficult for them to speak freely during virtual sessions.
“Is it better for me to do therapy as a parent for my child?”
Children and teens don’t always agree with their parent’s view of family challenges or their cause. They might be fine with things as-is while their parents struggle intensely. When that happens, children or teens might sometimes feel like their parents are “forcing them” to participate in therapy (online or in-person). In those cases, we recommend that the parent (or family) become the client.
We can partner with you as parents to support you through communication (or having your messages heard), play therapy strategies that strengthen the bond between parent and child and validating limit-setting approaches that build from feelings of connection and coregulation.
We will work with you to translate the big explosive feelings through which children and teens sometimes communicate their needs and help you become the externalized regulator your child needs to feel safe in their most “out of control” moments. Children and teens may or may not become involved as they feel ready.
Sometimes, we invite children to help “teach” parents what they need in specific moments, which can be incredibly empowering for them and enlightening for parents. As parents, we have so much power in the home (even if it doesn’t always feel that way). With that power, we can unintentionally become a perceived threat to the freedom of our developing children and teens (who are always growing up way faster than they have any right to!).
When parents create and maintain consistent change, that change affects the entire family.
Come play with us!
Considering therapy for your child or yourself is a big step.
We understand that it’s taken a lot to get you here.
To hear more about how this can work for you and your family, please contact us today for a free consultation: (786) 401-5603.
It costs nothing to answer your questions about the process. When you’re ready, we’re here!