Play & Creative Arts Therapists often get asked by parents and teacher to share things that have happened in sessions with a child. It can be hard for adults that therapists aren’t able to tell them what has happened in the sessions to protect the child’s right to confidentiality.
Let’s think about what it might be like for that child in therapy for a moment. If you were having counselling or therapy as an adult, how might you feel if your therapist was sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings to your friends, family or colleagues? It wouldn’t make us feel like we could trust them very much, would it? We might think that they’re judging us, we might worry about upsetting someone… In therapy, you have to put a lot of trust in the person you are bearing your soul to!
Just like with adults, Play & Creative Arts Therapists have a duty to keep confidentiality for the children they are working with to keep a safe and protected space where it is OK for them to express difficult feelings. All feelings are welcome in the therapy room!
Children can sometimes be punished for having feelings that are tough. When they are crying over something that might be perceived as minor, an adult might deal with it by minimising the feeling the child is expressing and brushing it off as ‘silly’ or unacceptable. Over time, this can lead to children internalising their difficult feelings because they learn that it’s not OK to express these feelings in front of adults.
In Play and Creative Arts Therapy, children are allowed to express any feeling they want. Over time, children come to understand that in the Play Therapy room it’s OK to let those feelings out and that their therapist won’t judge them. In fact, their therapist will fully accept all of those difficult feelings and help the child work through them.
In order for the Play Therapist to create a space where it is safe to express those feelings we must assure the child that we will not share what happens in the session with anyone else.
Of course, there are limits to confidentiality, and we are always alert to safeguarding issues that could come up. In these instances, we let the child know the procedure we would follow to escalate these concerns so that they are fully informed.
It is a relief for children that they know they have a private space in which to express parts of their experience in this world. It also helps them to feel empowered over what they share with their therapist – they know that their therapist is there to keep them safe, so a child might tell us something that we need to pass on to protect them.
In the therapy world, we have a saying – ‘trust the process’. We trust in the play to help the child explore difficult experiences and situations, and the child trusts in us that we will keep them safe however they choose to express themselves.
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