Relating through Props & Play

From time to time, I use props in my therapy sessions. They’re great for introducing a sense of play, and for mediating the interaction between me and my client(s). I’ve used the Hoberman Sphere pictured above to demonstrate cognitive concepts to my group therapy clients, opening and closing the sphere to demonstrate flexibility and constriction. Each time, my clients are absolutely alert and attentive. After the demonstration, we pass the sphere around, with each member flexing it to demonstrate their current state.

The barriers that arise during talk therapy can often be overcome by using props, since they support kinesthetic engagement. (Of course, some clients are as resistant to props as they are to speaking.) Sometimes I use a shawl (any length of cloth or rope or even a flexible band would do), holding one end while my client holds the other. We pull, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly, each trying to match the give and take of the other. It’s a dance, but a safe one, mediated by the presence of the cloth. It’s a way to practice interpersonal balance while reducing the threat of doing so.

I also use a colorful plastic rope to let clients trace their “comfort zone” on the floor as they stand within it. They make adjustments to the size and shape of their bounded zone, and when they’re done, we experiment with my position relative to their zone. Clients track their own sensations as we both move relative to the zone they’ve outlined. Again, the rope serves to mediate the space between us.

Props can help demonstrate concepts and serve as a medium for negotiating interpersonal space. In my experience, props enhance embodied levity, play, and exploration in therapy sessions.

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