I recently attended an Intensive Therapy Program utilizing psychodrama, family of origin work, and intensive group therapy. While I learned much about myself and my continued work in therapy, the primary tool that I took with me was the importance of PLAY! The little kid in me needs play. We all have a ‘little kid’ in us that needs to be taken care of, stay safe, and have fun through play.
Lynne Shallcross, a senior writer for Counseling Today, wrote, “Although counseling can be serious business, it doesn’t have to be. By using play and play therapy techniques, the counselor invites the client into a relationship in which he or she can make changes in an unthreatening, nurturing environment. In addition, most people learn better through doing than through talking,”
How do we utilize play in the wilderness to help the young people we work with make and implement change?
At Evoke we play wilderness games daily. We call them MFT which stands for Mandatory Fun Time. This is our playful way of emphasizing the importance of play. The boys play Sock Hockey, DOGS (a hacky sack game), Mafia (a mystery game), Zoogle, Ninja, Everybody’s It, and many more. I like to say that G1, the adolescent boys’ group that I work with, is the reigning wilderness DOGS champion.
Play helps boys learn how to interact with each other, work together, deal with winning and losing in appropriate ways, and respect for their opponents. These tools are relatable to the boy’s therapy process at home. We utilize what we see and do in play and tie it to their therapy and their relationships at home. We emphasize how respect impacts relationships, how teamwork can enhance their sense of connection and belonging, how to appropriately interact with others, and how to utilize energy in a healthy way.
Perhaps most importantly is that the boys get to be boys again! One of my favorite aspects of being a wilderness staff prior to being a therapist was seeing angry, resentful, defiant boys come to wilderness and then become kids again. They had lost the ability to see the world with joy, to have fun, and to be childlike. This is incredibly meaningful and rewarding for me and for the boys. It’s ok to work hard and play hard. In fact, it’s necessary
So the next time you are feeling sad, overwhelmed, anxious, Go Play! If you’d like to respond in the comments, I would love to hear about the ways you play and take care of the little kid in you.