Healing through play


Family Works counsellors use many ways to create the best environment for their clients to feel comfortable to talk.

Thanks to a grant from The Tindall Foundation, it allowed our Family Works sites to purchase a range of toys and other resources for younger clients to use as part of play-based therapy.

“A lot can be revealed in the way tamariki (children) interact with different types of toys and how their behaviour changes from session to session,” says Family Works General Manager Julia Hennessy.

“Tamariki might use play to act out fears and anxieties, as a soothing mechanism, or to heal and problem solve. The effectiveness of play therapy has been studied extensively and it has been proven to be highly effective.”

Sand and animals

One of the items bought using the grant that proved useful was kinetic sand. This type of sand is coated in silicone oil, allowing it to be moulded easily.

One of the tamariki was able to use the sand during their sessions to mould it to represent their emotions. This allowed conversation about their emotions to flow easier between them and the counsellor.

Many of the tamariki engaged with small animals and figurines that were purchased. Often they would use them in a sandpit provided to allow them to narrate relationships they had in their lives, and the complexities these relationships can have.

Types of furniture can make a difference, too.

The grant from The Tindall Foundation made it possible for one site to purchase smaller chairs and stools for their younger clients to use, making the therapy spaces more welcoming for people of all ages.

One of the chairs was fuzzy and in the shape of a llama, making it a fun and different option for tamariki to sit on. The fuzzy material of the chair provided tactile stimulation for the person sitting in it, which could help them to open up during sessions.

Keeping active

Providing resources to engage tamariki or rangatahi (teenagers) in an active way has also been useful.

One Family Works site used the funds to install a basketball hoop on the property, which was popular with all the rangatahi coming through for sessions.

Staff said it was an informal way for them to engage with rangatahi to build a trust relationship and begin talking about difficult situations and experiences.

In a one-on-one case, one young client really enjoyed using a ball in his sessions where he and the counsellor tossed it back and forth while asking and answering different questions.

His counsellor believed it created a more relaxed way to talk about the things he was struggling with.


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