A treasure box is a container that has items that a child can choose at the end of the therapy session. The pediatrician usually has one. Ours has lollipops and one doctor gives out stickers. Typically, dentists give out some non-sugary toys or stickers. Your child’s teacher might have one. Most schools seem to have some sort of prize cabinet that they are using for good behavior.
If you are setting up a play therapy space, you probably have a good idea about the types of toys that you will need. If you are a non-directive play therapist, this would include aggressive toys, real-life toys and expressive/creative toys. For directive therapists, you probably have some favorite games, workbooks, or specific art supplies. You might be considering whether you should have something available for kids at the end of a play therapy session.
As a child-centered play therapist, I avoided the treasure box like the plague for my whole career. To me, treasure boxes were designed to try to entice children to like you. The idea being that they could associate the play experience with something wonderful and therefore, be more inclined to come to therapy. But my training told me that it didn’t really matter if they “liked me” or at least my motivation for providing therapy was not to be liked.
Most child centered play therapists quote Garry Landreth (The Art of The Relationship) when explaining why they do not give a child a gift, prize, or object at the end of a therapy session in a fashion similar to his own words
I participated in a training course in Synergetic Play Therapy and was introduced to the idea of the treasure box as a transitional object. Here, the idea being that each session of therapy has its own termination. The child will always be guaranteed something to take with them at the end of the session to represent the work and the relationship formed on that particular day.
The founder of Synergetic Play Therapy, Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S, explains that the treasure box is filled specifically with stones (the only difference being the colors) that metaphorically represent the treasure of the child. She describes jewels similar to those pictured. The rationale for that is that kids need a transition object that reinforces the therapy session.
A treasure box seems like a reasonable solution to that problem. Often, children will ask to bring a specific toy home with them from the playroom. When children want to take things home in therapy or have difficulty ending the session, having a treasure box can help ease the transition out of the therapy room. It can be offered as an alternative to the toy they want to take home. Many play therapists report using gemstones, beautiful rocks, or affirmation cards for this purpose. Some also use stickers or candy.
However, child centered play therapists often view the use of the treasure box for this purpose as a missed opportunity to reinforce limits and return the responsibility about how to end the session back to the child. The use of a treasure box is viewed, by some, as a manipulation of the relationship between the therapist and the child.
To assume that the child needs some sort of object to end the session takes away from the therapist’s belief in the child’s ability to lead the session all the way to termination. The play therapist that can patiently allow a child to end the session on their own reinforces their belief in the child’s ability to solve his/her own problems.
Do you have a Treasure Box in your therapy room? why or why not?
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