A few days ago a friend asked me what I would do if I won the 1.5 billon dollar Powerball lottery. After thinking about it awhile, I realized that I wouldn't change much.
I know what you're thinking: "Yeah right!" I get it. OK, so I sure would like to buy a huge jet, a fancy yacht, take some fabulous vacation and buy all my friends and family expensive gifts. Thinking about all that sounds ridiculously exciting and fun!
But to be completely honest, not much in my life would change.
I love my life. I'm not saying this because it sounds good; I'm saying it because it's true. I love my children, my husband. I love my home. I love my family and my friends.
My friend then asked, "Would you quit your job?"
And my answer was no. (Although, I might buy a larger office. Maybe even the whole building!?) The truth is, I love my job. I love being in private practice and being my own boss. I love having control over every single thing that goes into my business, right down to the color of the kleenex box. Hah!
What I really love most is having the opportunity to help others dive into themselves, find out who they really are, gain insight into their inner psyche and ultimately live happier lives. I love that I get to travel a unique journey with each client: sharing in pain, joy, frustration, excitement, grief, sorrow, fear, anger, everything. I am grateful to know these individuals who are brave enough to share the intimate details of their lives with me. I am blessed to see firsthand the strength and tenacity of the human spirit. I think, ultimately, I have learned far more from my clients than they have learned from me. I am always changing, a little bit better than the day before, every time I step into my office. And for all this, I could not be more grateful.
It is a privilege, this job.
But as you can imagine, it's not always easy. In fact, it is rarely easy. It is mentally and emotionally challenging work. The 12 hour work day I put in yesterday was exhausting, to be honest. I'll admit I complained about how tired I was when I got home last night.
But would I walk away if I won a billion dollars? Absolutely not.
Nothing good comes easy. Life is inherently difficult, no matter how much money you have. But with a purpose and a passion, we can find true joy.
We can find true joy.
What would you do if you won the lottery? How would your life change? If your immediate response is "everything," that your entire life would change if you won, then I ask you: why? What is wrong with your life now? Let's take a deeper look. What needs to change? Why are you waiting for a billion dollars that you most likely will never win?
Lack of personal fulfillment equals unhappiness. This begs the big questions: What is my purpose? What do I love about life? What makes me truly come alive? Right now, you can start making steps to living a life that aligns more congruently with your answers.
The old idiom is true: winning the lottery sure can buy a whole lot of things, but the best things in life it will never provide: self-love, fulfillment, and joy. And if you have found those, my friends, then you are winning BIG.
Please take a moment to read these five main points regarding the theory of child-centered play and what to expect before your child begins.
1. It's Not Just Play-Time
Your child may report that he or she just played and did artwork. This does NOT mean that the therapy session was simply “play-time.” While play therapy is fun for the child involved, it also involves “work.” However, the work isn’t like schoolwork. They use the toys to process and work through whatever it is they are struggling with utilizing symbolism, metaphors and analogies to express themselves accurately. A child might use an egg to represent feeling breakable, dragons may represent their anger (or an annoying sibling), and fences or barriers may be a child’s way of feeling trapped or contained. Toys give children the freedom to express themselves in a way that makes sense to them when words just don’t seem to fit right. Play Therapy uses this form of expression to facilitate such things as healing, growth, and development.
2. It's Not a Quick-Fix
Therapy with children does not work overnight. One of the most important aspects of play therapy is the relationship between the child and therapist. Like any therapeutic relationship, trust, safety and security are vital. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a sense of safety and security is second only to food and shelter. Therefore, when children enter the play therapy room, they won’t find a counselor sitting in a grown up chair looking down at them asking questions, like most other adults they know. Instead, they will see their counselor on the floor with toys and objects that speak their language. Rather than being told what to do and given a lot of rules to follow, they will be given the freedom to explore and decide how they want to spend their time. The first few play sessions with a child center around building trust and safety rather than jumping straight to the problem at hand. Once the rapport is built however, a child feels safe enough to begin diving into what has brought him/her to therapy. Then the next phase of therapy begins.
3. Let Your Child Lead
Please do not ask your child what he did during a play therapy session. He will offer the information he wants you to know. Most of the therapeutic process is subconscious, and it may confuse your child by asking probing questions. The purpose of play therapy, especially with younger children, is not to expect the child to verbalize the therapeutic process, but instead for you to see decreased symptoms and improved functioning in significant areas of his or her life over time.
4. Refrain From Giving Updates
Your therapist will come to meet you and your child in the waiting room, then take the child into the therapy room. Please do not update your therapist about your child in the waiting room with your child present. It is important that your child feel like the therapy time is his or hers. However, it is appropriate for you to leave me a confidential voicemail, send an email, or hand me a brief note at the beginning of session describing concerns, improvements, etc. If you begin to tell me an update, I will kindly remind you that the therapy time is for your child and that we can schedule a time to meet individually. Depending on the case, I usually meet with parents individually and/or with the child around every 4th session or so. Please let me know if something has come up and we can schedule a session before that.
5. Trust the Power of Play
Children often come into play therapy defeated, confused, overwhelmed, and feeling as though their world is out of control. However, once a child enters play therapy and realizes that it is a world they can understand and communicate in, they often visibly relax. Allowing children this freedom to explore what is bothering them is healing in and of itself. Children heal from a nasty divorce, learn to calm themselves before they explode into a temper tantrum, and develop a high level of confidence to overcome struggles with anxiety, depression, or bullying. They move from self-loathing to self-acceptance and high self-esteem. That is the power of play.
We all know the scenario hilariously played out on last Saturday’s SNL skit: you’re sitting around the thanksgiving dinner table when Aunt Cathy inevitably starts spouting off her doggedly absurd political views (insert eye roll) and it takes all you can muster not to reach across the table and strangle her. Well take heart: it need not come to this. Here are some tips to help you handle the annual holiday dinner without it swiftly turning into Battle Royale.
1. Make a Plan
This isn’t your first rodeo. You know the deal: after a few glasses of wine Aunt Cathy won’t stop with her political rantings, which just so happen to entirely contradict your rational and wisely chosen political ideals. You feel your heart start beating fast and your face grow hot. What is she saying?! Take a deep breath and remember your plan.
Many of us run the worst-case scenarios in our mind and brace ourselves for a nasty encounter. This can do more harm more than good as it raises anxiety. Try to reframe the scenario in your mind. Say, “This might be stressful, but I can handle it. I’ve been through worse!”
Use “If-Then” statements. You know what to expect, so plan your response. “If Uncle Larry starts talking about the refugee issue I am going to calmly tell him ‘I understand you’re coming from but I have respectfully have an alternate viewpoint.’” Another example: “If Uncle Larry won’t let it go, I will excuse myself to the bathroom.”
2. Use Active Listening
We all want to be heard. These issues are important to us, and rightfully so. When a family member makes a statement that disagrees with the core of your beliefs, it’s only natural to have a strong desire to assert your opposing view. And you can.
But first, wait. Take a deep breath. And remember this:
When people truly feel heard, they are in a much better place to listen to what you have to say.
In other words, if you want Aunt Cathy to gain a shred of understanding toward your opposing viewpoint, you first must listen to her and make her feel heard. The next important thing to remember:
You can listen to and understand an opinion without subscribing to it.
It’s true. You can. And you should! The foundation for healthy communication is active listening. You won’t have time to teach a psychology class during Thanksgiving dinner but you can guide the table toward healthy communication by example.
Next, muster up your best empathy skills. In this situation it's going to be hard but you can do it! Of course, empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine what things are like from their perspective. You’ve got to really divorce yourself from your own personal views for a moment (not forever, just for a few minutes!) and see things through Aunt Cathy's eyes.
Convey this by summarizing what she’s just said, and authentically tell her how it is you understand what she’s saying. For example, you might say something like, “I can see how you feel that refugees shouldn’t be let into our country. It can be really scary to think that they might put our lives in direct danger. It sounds like you’re saying protection is really important to you. I can understand and appreciate that. I want to feel safe, too.”
Ask her to explain anything you might not completely understand. (Remember, you don’t have to believe it to understand it!) This also shows the speaker that you care about what they have to say and want to know more. You could say, “Tell me more about your thoughts on __________ and why you think _____________.” You don’t have to go on forever. A little of this will go a long way in making stubborn Aunt Cathy feel heard and ultimately hear YOUR point of view.
3. Change the Subject
You have a 0.01% chance of changing Aunt Cathy’s vote over turkey dinner by arguing with her. Studies have shown that it is rare for a person to change their political opinion through argument. So is it worth it?
Depending on your relationship and energy level, sometimes it’s just not. In which case, change the subject. This doesn’t mean you have to agree. Be authentic. Say, “I hear what you’re saying, Aunt Cathy; I respectfully have a different view. To tell you the truth I’ve had so many of these difficult political conversations lately I just don’t have energy for another one right now if you don’t mind. I would really like to hear about your new job though. How is that going?” Chances are, she'll really want to talk about it.
4. Be Kind
This goes without saying, but don’t belittle anyone for not agreeing with your views. Ultimately it does nothing more than solidify their view, hurt your relationship, and make you look bad. A little kindness can go a long way to help make the holidays positive. Remember, you don’t have to go home with this person, you just have to eat turkey with them for an hour. Be kind, and see number 5…
5. Give Thanks
It’s Thanksgiving, after all. When we are mindful of all we have to be thankful for, getting into arguments is less likely. So when you’re taking the trip to gather around the table with your loved ones this Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful, be kind, come prepared with a plan, use your active listening skills, and if necessary, deflect the conversation.
…And if none of these suggestions end up working, you can always just break out the Adele!
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It seems so simple, yet it is an essential (and often overlooked) skill children need to learn in order to develop into healthy adults. As parents, it’s not always in the forefront of our minds, and some may find it a bit odd to think they need to actually teach their child empathy. Doesn’t it just come naturally?
Yes and no. Children are born with the aptitude for empathy, but it needs to be taught and encouraged throughout their childhood. Research shows there is a clear correlation between the ability to empathize and future fulfillment and success. Making (and keeping) worthy friends, succeeding in school, attaining a gratifying career, maintaining a healthy marriage, all of these things rely on one critical skill: EMPATHY.
In recent years a growing number of noted mental health professionals have observed that play is as important to human happiness and well being as love and work (Schaefer, 1993). Some of the greatest thinkers of all time, including Aristotle and Plato, have reflected on why play is so fundamental in our lives.
Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist. Ambivert. Listener. Helper. Healer. Stick hander-outer. Private practice in Winston-Salem, NC.