Thanks to the Joseph and Karen Krantz Family Charitable Foundation, the child psychotherapy clinic in the Department of Psychiatry looks brighter and feels more energetic than ever. Visitors will notice vibrant flowers, leaves, and blades of grass on the floors, making the clinic more inviting for young patients and their families. The Krantz Family’s recent gift allowed for the purchase of the large colorful sensory floor decals as well as the acquisition of five child therapy toy kits.
The toy kits contain diverse family figurines, houses, and playing pieces that enable children to depict and express challenging realities and feelings — difficult enough for an adult, let alone a child under the age of six. Play is critical for children as it lets them articulate real experiences mixed with fantasy and symbolism. These kits are also valuable tools for trainees to use as they allow patients to tell their stories through play, while helping them feel differently in their bodies.
Karen Smith, social worker in the child psychotherapy clinic, says:
“When we as child-parent psychotherapy therapists work with toddlers and preschoolers, we learn to speak the special language of play. We work with parents to consider the potential meanings of the scenes children create. Then we think about what we can do as adults. First, we try to show children that we are attempting to understand their experience. Then, as understanding sets in, we tell them that we get it and that they are not alone with either the emotional or actual reality of their experience. We can also respond to them using the magical language of play to demonstrate how adults work together to address situations in a different way.”
Play can move in many directions like helping children connect with and learn about feelings as well as how to appreciate diversity in their family, cultural background, and beliefs. We know from playing out challenging stories with kids that they are wise and capable of understanding their bodies need breaks from these realities and that it is important to breathe and reconnect.
The true goal of therapy is to support connection and development. Often these sessions focus on play that is simply fun, showing kids how much love and joy there is and how these activities and the feelings they elicit can help them feel differently in their bodies. Play also provides a way for children to learn that it is ok to talk and play about difficult times, because the end result is feeling less alone in experiences and not getting stuck in remembering or having difficult feelings.
Private philanthropy in any amount can truly improve and change lives. The Krantz Family Foundation’s gift benefits our faculty, staff, patients, and families in many ways, and we are grateful.