February 4, 2014

The Power of Play

By Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S - Guest Blogger

Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that is the natural way in which children learn about and explore the world around them. It elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. 

Play Therapy utilizes this natural ability of children and uses developmentally appropriate techniques to expand self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego. In addition, play allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Play is a powerful tool in healing the relationships of children and families.  

When children explore their world through the lens of play therapy, the sky is the limit.  They can become a superhero in their own process of healing and growth.  They find their strength, their resiliency, their inner voice and worth.  I like to use the following play therapy technique when I am working with children who are experiencing anxiety symptoms, or those who have or currently are experiencing bullying.  This also works well for children who have been exposed to trauma.
The SuperHero In The Mirror™ Technique:

Supplies Needed: 

Dress up clothes including masks, capes, etc.

Full length mirror 


Have the child stand in front of the mirror in his everyday clothes and describe the person he sees. Begin putting on one article of superhero accessories for every strength or super power he wishes he had right now. As soon as the child feels he looks like a superhero, have him describe the superhero he sees in the mirror as well as in his imagination.   

Explore what it would feel like to be that superhero: what would he do, who would he save, what powers would he use, etc.   Have him practice being this superhero and enact what he could do to change the situation he is currently struggling with.   

At the end of the session, write down what superhero powers he already has and didn’t realize with the homework assignment of practicing being a superhero in the mirror every day. You may also want to send home a mask as a visual reminder.

Clair Mellenthin, LCSW holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Throughout her career, she has focused on providing therapy to children, teens, and their families. She is currently the Clinical Director at Wasatch Family Therapy.  Ms. Mellenthin is a sought after play therapy supervisor, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern California MSW program, and the President of the Utah Association For Play Therapy.  In addition, Ms. Mellenthin frequently presents professional play therapy trainings and appears on local and national TV and radio as an expert on children and family issues.  For more information about Clair visit her web site Clair Mellenthin.

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