Last in the series, this article will explore a few more of the tools and techniques we use in therapy that often don’t feature as predominately as tools like sand, clay and drawing.
Sometimes people are genuinely amazed that child therapy involves more than just blowing bubbles, but joking aside, it is worth an entry into this series! Orca loves popping bubbles for clients, so she enjoys this too.
Blowing bubbles as well as being fun helps clients to elevate their mood, especially if Orca joins in, and the laughs and giggles are great tension-breakers and stress-busters.
The shared experience in therapy helps develop client-therapist (and therapy dog) rapport, especially at the beginning of therapy, and it is something almost every client enjoys if they choose to participate.
Blowing bubbles is a very simple and highly effective way of teaching clients deep-breathing and relaxation. The slow, long out-breaths needed for blowing big bubbles are particularly beneficial and are a great distraction if a client has to undergo a medical procedure such as an injection or for self-regulation when they are anxious.
There are lots of ways balloons can be used in the therapy room – balloon blowing, batting, popping and swatting all have a role in therapy, along with blowing them up and letting them go with silly noises, juggling them, writing messages on them or in them, or turning them into art, puppets or papier-mache.
Balloon bursting has been used for a long time as a ‘release therapy’ to help clients manage anger and other big feelings. It can also be used to help clients manage delayed gratification, cope with anticipation and promote anxiety management and confidence building.
Silly games such as juggling, balancing balloons on your nose and balloon tennis help clients with turn-taking, winning and losing and other social skills. Early on in therapy balloon play can help develop rapport between the therapist and the client and allows a safe level of silliness and risk-taking in the sessions.
For children who are struggling with bereavement, memories of a loved one (or pet) can be drawn or written down, taped to a helium balloon and released with appropriate ceremony, although if you are worried about littering or the safety of wildlife, alternatives such as whispering messages for incense smoke to carry can also be used.
Stories can be used in a variety of ways in therapy.
Clients often delight in sharing their world with the therapist, expressing their feelings, sharing day to day events that are important to them and sharing important memories. Through storytelling clients can reflect on their thoughts and feelings and learn about themselves and this happens in narrative stories that many choose to share, where dragons are ridden on, goodies fight baddies, alien plots to take over the Earth are thwarted and all manner of fantasies, worries and fears are played out.
Through storytelling, a client has a personal voice and control of the narrative. They can choose what to share and often show their feelings, hopes, fears and future wishes through their stories. Their stories are not bound by reality and they can try out roles through the characters they choose. Fears such as getting lost, being left alone and dying can be safely addressed and ‘do-overs’ can happen when things don’t go to plan and the plot changes. There is great safety in the use of story because a client can declare it ‘not real’ or simply bring it to a close with ‘the End!’.
Sometimes therapeutic stories are incredibly helpful, which are written by the therapist specifically for a client, to support them with a particular issue such as anger, anxiety, friendships or loss. Sometimes published therapeutic stories are used specifically with a client too, but there are always a range of stories in the studio for clients to select from if they choose.
There are lots of other tools of the trade we use as therapists, but this collection of articles should give you the feel for the huge range of ways in which your child or teen can be supported in their sessions.