Play therapist and Great Ormond Street ambassador Amanda Seyderhelm is launching a specialist play therapy service which will address the increasing needs of children struggling with issues related to loss and change. Based in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford, Amanda will focus on the requirements of children aged between seven and 10.
Amanda has worked extensively at Great Ormond Street Hospital as well as at The Broad St Practice, a complementary health centre in Stamford, Lincolnshire. She has developed a reputation as one of the most effective practitioners in her field, bringing life-changing help to families struggling with their children’s emotional challenges. Play therapy can be particularly beneficial to youngsters dealing with bereavement, divorce and self-esteem issues.
‘Most of the families I work with are ready to take on a different approach,’ says Amanda, whose play therapy service is entitled Helping Children Smile Again. ‘They are often at the end of their tether with their child’s behaviour. The child may be finding it difficult to deal with very intense feelings, they may be having regular meltdowns or they may be feeling very isolated due to a bereavement or major change in their life. At the heart of any of these problems is a struggle with some kind of loss or change.’
What marks Amanda apart from other play therapists is her intuitive approach and natural affinity with children.‘I love working with children and it’s so wonderful to see the way they naturally respond to play – that’s their language,’ explains Amanda. ‘I build an atmosphere of trust and rapport with a child and once that’s been established there is automatically an atmosphere of permission. The child feels free and liberated and through their “special time” with me they are able to explore their world.’
Through the use of paints, sand, playdough, figures and puppets, the child can play out their feelings with Amanda. The need to talk is gone; instead the child can express their emotions through play and thus build their emotional resilience and self-esteem.
There is no doubt that Amanda’s gentle, child-centred approach gets results. ‘One family with an adopted child saw an amazing improvement in just three months,’ says Amanda. ‘Their daughter turned from an angry, anxious eight-year-old to a calm child who could vocalise her worries instead of lashing out. She also finally managed to accept cuddles from mum rather that pushing her away. The mum referred to ‘a kind of magic’ which happened when her daughter played with me. It was so gratifying to see the change which affected the whole family so positively.’
PLAY THERAPY: THE FACTS
What is play therapy? Play therapy is a form of counselling which enables children to deal with worries or anxieties which may be causing negative patterns of behaviour.
What does the process involve? Following an initial consultation with the parent or carer, play therapy sessions usually take place on a weekly basis in a neutral, safe environment, typically over a 12-week period.
What happens in a play therapy session? Using a variety of play materials such as paint, sand, figures and puppets, the play therapist will gently guide the child to work through emotional issues without the need for verbal explanations.
Does play therapy work? Data from governing body Play Therapy UK shows that between 77% and 84% of children who partake in play therapy show a positive change in their behaviour.