A day in the life of a play therapist.
Play therapy is a way of supporting children and young people to explore and process different issues and worries using non-directive play. However, in March 2020 a global pandemic was declared, and the country went into lockdown. This had a negative impact on many people but in particular, our younger generation who learn through play and interaction with others. As a service, we were lucky to have completed our Rape Crisis Online Training which explored how to deliver online or telephone counselling. It also meant we had a secure platform already in place before the pandemic hit, which was great for our adult clients but the ethical issue surrounding counselling online with children made it unsuitable for children of primary school age. Now schools are back open, and we can now see children face to face, the use of online/telephone has proven a hit with many teenagers.
9 am: I log into my email account and check for any important messages. I’m waiting for a reply from a school regarding sessions being set up for a child…sometimes the hardest part of setting up sessions is missing calls from each other due to busy schedules, so I’ve found emails are the quickest way to correspond with schools.
9:15 am I am in a school local to me this morning which only takes 10 minutes to drive to.
9:30 am I have my first session of the day with a 12-year-old girl. We have been working together for several weeks now and they greet me with a smile when they enter the room. The client has experienced sexual abuse and we have been exploring her thoughts and feelings around this using drawing and talking at the child’s pace.
10:20 am I leave the school and head back home to log the session on our system and check any emails or calls. I work from home 2 days a week, so this is outreach during school hours.
10:40 am I get back into my car to travel to another local secondary school, I arrive a little early as this is my first time in this school and need to show them my ID and DBS so they have a copy for their records.
11 am Initial assessment with a 12-year-old boy. He has accessed the service as a supporter who is struggling with anger issues after his sister disclosed sexual assault from their father. I explain to the boy what counselling is and we go over confidentiality and consent. Verbal consent from mum had been given prior to the assessment taking place. I complete a risk assessment and once the paperwork is completed (the boring part as the children often call it!) we have a chat about what they would like to get out of counselling and how we can achieve that. All children are different and will engage in therapy in different ways, I like to use this initial appointment to gain as much information about the child, their interests, hobbies, and friends.
12 pm Inputting all the assessment details into our system, updating referrals that the assessment was completed so they can be added to my caseload.
12.15 pm Email in from the school I was waiting to hear from. The safeguarding lead has booked a room for sessions to start with a pupil the following week.
12:20 pm I contact the parent to advise that the school are providing me with a room to start counselling sessions next week with their daughter. I ask the parent if they have any questions and explain that should the child change their mind or have any questions before next week, they can contact me on my work mobile.
12.30 pm Lunchtime!!!
1 pm: I’m back in the car travelling to a school half an hour’s drive away.
1:30 pm I enter the primary school and the receptionist greets me with ‘Hello again Miss glitter lady’…the child I see in this school loves to get creative with glitter! It is our last session together and it is so rewarding to see how far this child has come. She had suffered sexual assault from her biological father and had become withdrawn. The quiet and unhappy child I had met weeks ago was nowhere to be seen, instead, I had a happy, chatty, and an extremely funny little girl who really embraced play therapy.
2.30 pm It’s time to travel back home where I will be working for the rest of the day.
3 pm: I check and respond to emails that have arrived in my inbox while I was on outreach and input the session and close the case. Complete a first contact for a child on the waiting list for counselling.
3.30 pm I have an online session with a 14-year-old girl. This client really likes Harry Potter so as we are online, we agree to do a Harry Potter quiz, she scores 100%! She has a busy schedule with school and after-school activities so having the sessions online is convenient for her as it saves time not having to travel.
5 pm Last session of the day. This session is with a 17-year-old girl via telephone. The client is confident and open during our sessions and again the session not being face to face is not a problem. We discuss what she wants to bring to the session this week and explore her thoughts and feelings around this issue.
5.50 pm I log the last session and make sure I have done all the tasks that I have needed for the day. I check over tomorrow’s appointments and make sure I have logged my mileage for the day.
6 pm I log off my laptop and switch off my work phone.
Every child is different, and no two sessions are ever the same! Seeing a child grow and gain confidence is amazing! These children and young people have been through so much but still show courage, hard work, and determination.
I feel proud of every single one of them!