DSM: How to play with young people

Marko Koskinen (marko@vapaus.net)
Mon, 08 Jan 2001 23:53:46 +0200

Hi all!

I was wondering that how the staff plays with children and wanted to
write a little bit about it. You can probably clearly see that my
thinking is very much influenced by Dan Greenbergs writings. But anyway,
here's what I've been thinking. There is some unfamiliar vocabulary that
I've explained below. This is because I wrote this primarily to the
Re-evaluation Counseling list. Please comment.


Play is an essential way of learning. When we want to learn something
new or confirm our views or presumptions, we start naturally to play.
Play can be defined as creative activity, which leads to unpredicted
results. Eg. scientific research and all forms of art can be defined as
play. Activity that is not play, is mechanical, predetermined, and thus
one cannot learn anything new from it. If the player learns some play so
well that it becomes routine or mechanical, the player looses his/her
interest in it, because he/she cannot learn anything from it anymore.

Adults should respect the play of young people, because it is their way
of learning new things and build their world view (as it is for adults
too). Play for young people is just as serious as eg. scientific
research for adults. We must remember that serious things don't always
have to look serious or feel serious. The play for adults looks usually
very different than the play for young people, because the purpose and
objectives for learning are usually very different. It is important to
notice that play for adults and for young people isn't qualitatively
different. The only difference is the objective of play and even that
can be sometimes the same. Play is a way to learn new things and confirm
ones presumptions for adults too.

We all have been hurt (mentally) when we have been playing. Our plays
weren't valued nor understood. Many times our plays were interrupted and
we were guided to do "something more useful". Thus our learning process
was disturbed and many distress patterns* were attached to it.

When an adult participates in a play with young people, one must
remember that the objectives for young people are usually different than
for adults and that it is usually very restimulating* and reminds the
adult of his/her own childhood plays and the attitudes of adults towards
it. This is why the adults should concentrate on being counselors*
during the play, because otherwise the adult easily ends up being a
client* while the young person becomes an unwilling counselor*. If this
happens the adult will interrupt the natural learning process of the
young person who usually stops playing.

It is however very useful for adults to play like young people using it
as a way to discharge* their own hurts related to learning, lack of
appreciation and so on. Playing like young people play and discharging
the patterns involved, adults can regain their ability to learn
naturally and enjoy and rejoice learning. There is a lot of things that
we can learn from young people, playing is just one.

GLOSSARY (taken from "What's Wrong with the 'Mental Health' System - And
What Can Be Done About It - A Draft Policy for Re-evaluation Counseling

Client - The role of agreeing to accept another's attention while
attempting to discharge one's past distress.

Counselor - A person who agrees to focus all of his or her attention on
another person (the client*) in order to help the client discharge* his
or her distress. The role of counselor is mainly to listen awarely and
not to give advice, guidance, ar analysis. (My comment: The role of
counselor is a bit different when counseling young people under the age
of 21 and the process of counseling is usually called playlistening)

Discharge - A profound series of processes which remove the fixed
character from the information contained in recordings* of past
distress. These processes are dependably indicated by tears, trembling
and perspiration, laughter, indignant storming, laughter again,
reluctant talk, eager talk and yawning.

Pattern - A rigid recording of "thoughts," behaviors, and feelings that
is left by an undischarged* experience (or experiences) of distress.

Restimulation - The usually unaware, but nevertheless originally
intentional, bringing up of past distress because of some similarity in
the present, in the hopes of securing attention from another person of
persons and achieving some discharge*.

Hope you found this useful,

Marko Koskinen

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