The Language of Play in Psychotherapy
It’s not difficult for Kimberly Rodgers, a licensed social worker and owner of Monarch Therapy, LLC, to imagine walking a few miles in her clients’ shoes. On the occasions when they have traversed the bumps, potholes and back roads that run through the turbulent regions of adolescence and young adulthood, she has no problem recalling her own footsteps over, around and through the obstacles that challenged her personal strength, faith and self-confidence.
Rodgers’ adolescent transitions included living in Ireland from age 11 to 15 and her parents’ divorce. “My Dad was transferred for work purposes and traveled a lot while we lived there,” says Rodgers, who notes that within a year of returning to the U.S., she not only had to deal with the challenges of a new school system, but also her parents’ divorce and remarriage.
“I had no counselor or support to help me through those experiences, which I believe shaped my career choice,” she advises. Rodgers’ Christian background and solid foundation of faith are the underpinnings of her career and the point of reference from which she sees it as God’s calling. “Once I found this path, I knew I was a social worker at heart and doing what God had been directing me to and preparing me for,” she reflects.
Compassion, empathy and a deep desire to help others have informed the life experiences of this registered play therapist, who volunteered for community service organizations as a teenager and young adult. At Junior Civitan International, Rodgers helped with Happy Tails, sharing the unconditional love of pets with people of all ages in healthcare facilities. While studying for her bachelor’s degree at the University of Georgia, she mentored an Athens elementary student as part of her “communiversity” service hours.
A smile lights up Rodgers’ face as she explains what inspired the name of her business. “I see butterflies as spiritual creatures that make me think of transformation and rebirth,” she enthuses. “The caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a monarch butterfly perfectly captures the emotional healing phases of counseling.”
Sandtray therapy, which uses the power of symbols, is a tool that Rogers employs to help facilitate her clients’ healing process; it is particularly effective with children. To build a miniature world in the sand, which can render conversation unnecessary, a child uses the tiny people, animals, buildings, trees and spiritual and mystical figurines that line Rodgers’ office shelves. Focusing on the child and the interaction between the figures he or she adds, changes and removes, as well as the themes that emerge, Rodgers also considers the stories and personal meanings assigned to the symbols.
“In a child’s world, while a figure can look scary, their personal lens might allow them to see a strong superhero who is in their world to save people,” says Rodgers, who earned a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Central Florida. Noting that one difference between a child’s sand world and an adult’s is dynamics, she explains that children generally continue to move figures around from space to space, while adults usually build a world, leave it in place and talk about it.
According to Rodgers, play is the natural language children use to express feelings, beliefs, thoughts and concerns, and it helps them work through issues and challenges. This safe, non-threatening language that children know better than words is just one way Rodgers creates the secure and accepting counseling environment where clients express themselves without judgment. “This is the primary purpose of my job as a therapist,” she advises.
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Monarch Therapy, LLC, Quail Plaza, 4500 Executive Drive, #105, Naples 34110. Call 239-687-8286 or visit www.MonarchTherapy.com.