The importance of play therapy and playing with your children

Why am I playing games with your kid? (And why you should too)

Written by Child and Family Therapist Libby Steele, LPC 

If you’ve placed your child in therapy with us, you may have noticed or heard from your child that we “played games.” They may even be more specific, telling you about beating me in UNO, having good luck with Guess Who or losing a close game of Life.

The decision to put your child in therapy to begin with can be an emotionally charged situation, a logistically draining endeavor and an investment. So why would we be spending this precious time playing a round of Crazy 8’s or listening to music?

Here is what I know to be true about working with the developing brain: There is power in just letting the kid’s interest be their interest. In his book, “Killing Monsters,” Gerard Jones explains: when a child shows a genuine, or even passing interest in an activity there is real power in our “shared immersion” in the action.

When their hands are busy, when we are occupied in a friendly competition, more profound conversations easily emerge surrounding a host of topics. These may include:

  • How do I feel when I lose?
  • Do I sometimes experience rejection? Or Loss?
  • Do I ever get embarrassed and what do I do with that difficult emotion?
  • How do I experience anger and what does it look like to express that in a productive way? What about a damaging way?
  • Am I competitive? Do I like that about myself? Can I channel it appropriately? Does it ever get me into trouble?
  • Am I especially good at this game? Something else? How does this affect my self esteem or self confidence?

Adolescents, especially, may seek privacy and use provoking behaviors to create separation between them and their parents. Their job is to grow up and out into the world, AND they still WANT to know you’re hanging in there watching over them. Listen to their choice of music in the car, hear them out about a recent video game success, be openly curious about what it inspires in them. It is tempting to reject their choice of entertainment when it evokes a powerful response in us (especially if that response is anger), but there’s a reason teenagers gravitate towards music with a powerful “counter culture” message. It’s thrilling and validating to hear their fear, anger, jealousy and sadness parroted back to them in song. It makes them feel heard, and seen. Likewise, joining with your child over a familiar game is creating a venue for the safe exploration of harder topics and challenging emotions. When we are in this space of “shared immersion,” we have created a safe bubble around the interaction allowing the child or adolescent to be heard, seen and known in a way that facilitates growth.

Letting your teen struggle

Letting Your Teen Struggle

Written by Matt Dunatchik, LPCC

Raising teenagers can be both a spectacular experience and a horrendous experience.  Teens are difficult.  They can be moody, withdrawn, closed, and defiant.  They can also be charming, open, funny, and inspiring.  Having the patience to raise a teenager will help them thrive and grow so they can learn more deeply about themselves and the world around them.

The goal of raising kids and teens is to help them develop a strong identity so they can go out into the world and be wildly successful. Sometimes we, as parents, forget this when we’re in the midst of a teenage rampage and rebellion.

Here are some simple things to remember with your teens as they struggle to find themselves and push against you to learn more about the world.

  1. Their job is to push back against the parents/family as they figure out their own beliefs, identity, voice, and goals.
  2. Helping them means being open when they are struggling and NOT TAKING AWAY THEIR STRUGGLE.
  3. Let them come to you when they need help.  Don’t force yourself upon them with help; they will most likely shut down or get angry. Remember to stay open so to help your teen feel safe enough to share with you.
  4. Maintain age appropriate and healthy consequences. When they do make mistakes they can easily learn where the boundaries are.
  5. Let them know that you are here for them if the want help from you.  Offer solutions ONLY after asking if your teen wants them.

Remember, your teen’s goal is to learn how to self-identify and navigate a difficult world.  They need to struggle in order to learn and can do this best with parents’ support and boundaries.

All Change is Incremental…

…and sometimes change is large, noisy, aggressive, and intense.  This is something we have all dealt with lately in our Gestalt community here in Columbus.  Losing our leader, mentor, trainer, supervisor, and friend, Norman Shub, left a large gap in our hearts.  It also threw us into a tailspin of organizing for the future while honoring the past and the legacy Norman had created in 45 years of changing people’s lives.

As most know, we have moved offices due to being in a space that became too large for us to manage.  We are happily adjusting to our new office space and supporting each other through the ups and downs that come with major life changes.  The special ability to support each other was instilled in us from working with Norman and it has helped us become a close knit group of therapists that know how to love and support each other.

What we’ve learned from Norman and Gestalt Therapy has also helped us be the best therapists we can be.  We are here to serve the community and continue the legacy of Gestalt Therapy and Norman Shub, but in our own, authentic way. We are constantly learning and constantly growing. We are excited about the future and everything that is to come.

By Matt Dunatchik, MSEd., LPCC

How often do you cross the line between caring and taking too much responsibility?

Caring and Taking Responsibility: How Often Do You Cross the Line?

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

Do you have an innate desire to help others be happy and fix their pain? Are you a nurturer and enjoy taking care of others? When you see a loved one struggling, do you work harder than they do to find a solution? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may have a tendency to cross the line between caring and taking responsibility.

Intellectually, most of us know that taking away someone’s struggle is not only impossible, it’s not what they want or need. We all need to struggle if we want to grow. If you’re unsure whether you tend to cross the line, the following breakdown between caring and taking responsibility may help.

Caring for another involves the following:

  1. Listening with genuine care, respect, and an attempt to try to understand what a person is experiencing. If you want to learn how to be a better listener, check out the article, “What Great Listeners Actually Do” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.
  2. Offering assistance while setting limits to how much you’re able and willing to do.
  3. Asking someone if they want advice or feedback before giving it.
  4. Remembering that you are separate from the other person. Their feelings and behaviors may not have anything to do with you.

Crossing the line into taking responsibility involves the following:

  1. Helping by completing a task that takes away a person’s opportunity to struggle and therefore, grow. For instance, doing your son’s homework assignment because solving math problems is difficult and gives him anxiety.
  2. Planning or organizing someone else’s life in an attempt to make a day or an event go as smoothly as possible for others. This can involve questioning someone persistently, or asking “are you sure?” multiple times when he/she has stated their decision.
  3. Taking on another person’s emotional pain by taking the fault when it has nothing to do with you. Or, trying to make someone feel better by talking them out of their pain and then feeling irritated when they distance themselves or do not feel better.

Crossing this line over and over again becomes painful, exhausting, and feeds anxiety and depression. It can lead to loneliness, resentment, and frustration in relationships. A powerful gestalt intervention involves helping individuals enhance their awareness. Therefore, if you tend to cross the line from caring into taking responsibility and want to change, practice noticing each and every time you approach the line.

  1. If you feel resentful toward others when they dismiss your advice or help, you may be crossing the line.
  2. Perhaps you start worrying excessively about others and spiral into “what ifs.” You may say to yourself, “If I don’t do his homework, he’s going to fall behind, get teased, fail math, not get into college….”
  3. Perfectionists can cross the line in an effort to ensure that everyone is happy, having fun, and getting along. Along the same lines, if you need people to like you, notice when you start trying to figure out how you can help make things easier for them.

As your awareness increases, you can decide how to care and set limits so you avoid crossing the line. Remember, we can care deeply about others and help them without taking away their pain, fixing their problems, trying to make their life perfect, and enabling their troubling behaviors.

Thank you to Norman Shub for identifying this important theme.

 

 

Are You Sabotaging your dating life?

Are You Sabotaging Your Dating Life?

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

We date for a variety of reasons, primarily with hope of falling in love with someone who has similar values, interests, goals, and of course, chemistry. And when the topic of dating arises, a variety of feelings are evoked. There are more ways than ever to meet someone, yet so many of us are unsatisfied with and jaded about dating. So why does it have to be so hard?

Since we can’t change others, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. What might you be doing to sabotage your dating life?

-Do you listen to, and trust your gut?

-Are you a good listener? Be honest…do you tend to prepare your response while the other person is talking? Tend to talk about yourself and try to convince him/her that you’re a great catch?

-How are you at asking interesting questions?

-Do you put yourself out there (this can be especially tough for introverts)?

-Do you let the other person do all of the talking?

-Are you so jaded that you nit-pick every little thing that’s wrong, or could be wrong, about the other?

-Do you rush into relationship mode, instead of really take time to get to know someone?

-Do you date the same type of person, over and over again?

-Are you presenting yourself authentically? Or, are you making adjustments to fit into what others want, or you think they want?

How we meet someone becomes irrelevant when we don’t know how to engage people in meaningful ways, listen to our gut and do something about the red and green flags, and have clarity about what we really want. If you are struggling with dating, take some time for self-reflection and consider the following:

-Ask friends you trust for honest feedback.

-Meet with a therapist who will not only listen, but also give you feedback with support and compassion.

-Recommended books: Heart to Heart: Learning to Love, by Norman Shub and How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, by John Van Epp