By Susan Regan, MFT
Often times, parents ask me how therapy works. One of the ways I’ve been able to get a sense that your child’s therapy is working is well described in writings by authors and my colleagues.
There is a stage where children do their deeper work during play therapy called the “deeper awareness stage.” It essentially parallels a mindful meditation. Here are some comparisons to that in Eckhart Tolle’s work. “Through both the language and the silence of the play, the child is propelled into the meditative deeper awareness stage…as in mindfulness meditation, the actual dawning of truth may take only minutes within the child’s play sessions, often after months of preparation…’”
There so much awareness and presence that happens in the work with children that it is amazing. I often know that our times of play are a deeper sorting out of things that the child is struggling with — a representation of things that they are becoming aware of and how they relate their problems or discomforts to these deeper themes. The child’s system is so much more pure and receptive to ideas in relating information that healing in child’s therapy happens so much quicker on a nonverbal level that I’m often amazed by how the child is working, what they’re talking about in their work and how they’re relating to different parts of their life in the work. This could be done symbolically, verbally, or in drawings, but I see it all the time and it’s fascinating to do play therapy.
This is just to give parents a little insight about how I know play therapy is working with children.
 Eckhart Tolle (1999) describes three themes in his work that are relevant to Stage IV (Deeper Awareness): (a) the power of Now, being as completely as possible in the present moment; (b) experiencing stillness by calming the mind; and (c) opening to sacredness…Tolle tells us that when we become truly present, we are able to find the sacredness everywhere, but that it is easier in certain places that we call sacred, where “there is less density in forms and there is a transparency that shines through the forms” (Tolle, 2005)…The space of the playroom, no matter how small or simple, needs to offer safety and sacredness. “The moment you enter the Now with your attention, the stillness arises. The essence of the present moment, no matter how mad it may appear on the surface, is always stillness. It is also sacredness” (Tolle, 2005). Most experienced play therapists know this in their hearts. Children generally want to play “pretend,” and if given the space and time, they will eventually get to this deeper space. Play therapists can tell when the child is in the space of sacred healing. They often describe it as “awesome.” Many a therapist has remarked how his or her sense of the significance of a play session brought tears to their eyes. When the therapist intentionally holds the space of Now, children tend to go deeply into their hurt places and symbolically, through the energy of the play toys, bring their hurts with them into the realm of the sacred, for healing. In the play, through the process of desensitization, the child gradually has the capacity to go to the edge of his sadness, fears, anxieties, and past or recent trauma. The child will stay with various qualities of play for as long as he needs, over the course of however many sessions he requires.” Mindfulness-Based Play-Family Therapy: Theory and Practice (p. 87-89 c. 2013)