Cognitive restructuring occurs regularly in the playroom as a child experiences the therapist’s full acceptance. Teaching cognitive restructuring, however, may expedite the process of having a child experience heartfelt self-acceptance. A useful analogy is that of a school teacher teaching classroom rules. The teacher will allow students to learn classroom rules throughout the first week of school through experience, but prior to that experience, the teacher will verbally share the rules, and may even write them out and post them.
Here are a few ways a play therapist can teach cognitive restructuring:
“You don’t think you can do it.” (I am helpless or powerless.)
“So, nobody likes you?” (I am worthless.)
“Your teacher should do it your way.” (I should be in charge.)
A cautionary note: Some children are truly unloved and taught that they do nothing right. In these cases, these interventions may not be appropriate in the early stages of therapy, and will need to be preceded by other interventions. It is also important to note that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has two parts: cognitive restructuring and behavioral change. Children are able to learn new beliefs about the world, their relationships, and themselves by understanding cognitive restructuring. They will also need to practice new behaviors, reinforced with new beliefs, to experience heartfelt change.
Celebrate feeling happier!
Donna is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist/Supervisor in private practice, in Savannah, GA. Visit her website: http://www.donnahammontree.com/