In 2010, I was told about Clay Therapy and Mr. Paul White, LCSW. I even saw it used within a session between a therapist and a child. I found it to be fun and interesting but to be honest, I did not completely understand the purpose. In February 2012, I was able to attend a play therapy seminar in Oklahoma City and, unknown to me, Paul White was the instructor. Without going into great detail, this was the most beneficial seminar I have ever attended. Paul is blunt and both sweet and sour at the same time but I do not know many therapists that care more about children than this grandfatherly man and I certainly do not know many, if any, that have his knowledge about children. I bought his Clay Therapy book and it has been beneficial and I do recommend it. His website is www.playtherapyclay.comand I believe the book is $45.00. However, this seminar was not about Clay Therapy. He has a plethora of practical and usable techniques and tools that I have implemented into my practice. My work is much more effective and applicable and I enjoy every session.
Allow me to provide you with one small nugget of information that I believe, and tell my clients, is the most important thing you will hear and if you learn to understand it, you will always have the power to effect every single thing that happens in your life.
1. You are the BOSS of your brain, which is where you THINK.
2. Your brain is the BOSS of your FEELINGS.
3. Your feelings are the BOSS of your ACTIONS.
I draw a picture of a person on a piece of paper (it does not have to be good). In the head area, I squiggle some lines and tell them, “even though this looks like hair, this is the brain inside the head.” In the chest of the person, I draw a heart shape and say, “even though this is not what a real heart looks like, this will represent your heart”. Then, I draw a line near the head and an arrow from the line to the brain. I do the same for the heart. The last line, I place nearer the waste area and draw arrows from the line to a hand, a foot, and the mouth. Then I say, “I bet you know what you do with the brain.” Paul suggests creating a little bit of anxiety about getting the answer correct. This helps them engage more. If they start giving answers other than THINK, I will encourage them by saying, “You know, I THINK you know this answer.” If they don’t catch the hint, then I will say, “You know what you do with the brain. It starts with ‘T’ and rhymes with ‘sink’.” Sometimes I have used “stink” but not if the child has a negative perspective. I will do the same for the heart to get them to say “Feelings” and then the last line can be either “Actions” or “Do”.
We talk about the BOSS system from above. I will give them an applicable example of how CHOOSING to CHANGE the way you THINK changes your experience EVERYTIME.
1. What if you came to school next year and when you looked in the little window in the door, you didn’t know any of the other kids in there. If you THINK the sentence, “These kids won’t like me”, how will you FEEL? (I let them list the negative feelings: sad, scared, angry, lonely, nervous, etc.). Now, if you feel these feelings, how will you ACT when you go in the room? If you are sad or lonely, you might not talk to anyone. If you are angry or scared, you might tell people that try to talk to you to go away. If that happens, how will the kids feel about you? (They almost always say, “they won’t like me”.) You were right about them before you ever met them. But, not because of the other kids but because you made it that way.
2. What if you came to school next year and when you looked in the little window in the door, you didn’t know any of the other kids in there. If you THINK the sentence, “Most of these kids will like me because I ________ and ________.” (We talk about the fact that MOST will like me, but not all. Some people like Lemonade, some like Tea, and some like at least one of a thousand different drinks. They have the right to like what they want and not like what they don’t.) (The two blanks are two real things the counselor sees in the child – “I’m smart”, “I’m fun”, “I’m funny”, “I have a pretty smile”, “I like people”, etc.) If you walk into the room thinking “most of these kids will like me because _________ and ___________”, how will you FEEL? (brave, confident, happy, loved, caring, important, etc.) If you feel _____________, how will you ACT? You will talk to the other kids, ask them their names, smile, ask them about their last school, ask them about their pets, or something like that. (Coach the client on social interaction by suggesting positive things they might do.) If you act like that, how will the kids feel about you? (They almost always say, “most will like me”.) You were right about them before you ever met them. But, not because of the other kids but because you made it that way.
WHAT CHANGED? The situation and the kids in the room did not change at all. The experience, however, was completely different because YOU CHOSE to be the boss of your brain and chose a different thought. Or as, one of my client’s says, “Think a different think”. You may be thinking, what about abused or neglected children? How can they change their experience? Unfortunately, thousands of children are abused every day. Some, remain victims and remain diminished. Some, overcome (Maya Angelou for example) and become influential. WHAT CHANGED?
by: Jeff Plunkett, LPC, MAMFT, CEO/Clinical Director of Above All Behavioral Health Services, LLC