My Name is Sharon Flower and I am a creative arts/Play Therapist. I have been working with children, families and adults for more than 12 years. I am also a clinical supervisor, filial parent coach and work therapeutically with mothers and babies. I work in a private setting from my therapeutic centre in Sidcup, as well as working in schools, offering supervision, therapy and training. My work is systemic and I work closely with parents, teachers, outside agencies, such as social services, or fostering/adoption agencies.
Much of my work involves offering a counselling service to traumatised children from 3-17, experiencing complex needs, as well as working with many adults who are survivors of abuse or neglect. Many have suffered sexual or physical/emotional abuse or may have suffered a loss in some way. This can be the loss of a parent in a physical form or in an emotional form, as a result of entering into a fostering/adoption placement or a bereavement. As a result of emotional neglect children can display behaviours such as OCD, eating disorders, anger, self-harm, depression, bedwetting, clinging behaviour, being withdrawn, poor peer relationships, bullying behaviour or poor learning and concentration abilities as well as hyperactivity. These behaviours can also be true for adults.
My journey began many years ago, after working with primary aged children who had suffered emotional difficulties and realising how they struggled to learn,concentrate or develop good peer relationships. Many had anger issues and were diagnosed ADHD or had dyslexia issues. I began to realise that these children were not coping with their education and their wellbeing was suffering. Nobody seemed to understand them. I also came to realise that many of the usual techniques did not work with these children. They didn’t respond to consequences or praise or even verbal counselling. However I knew there must be a way to reach these children that had cut off from the world and as a result many of the adults around them had given up. It was here that my journey into Play Therapy began. I spent many years training as a therapist, which also included my own personal therapy. This therapy is not just about play, it is more than that. It is pure magic in all its glory. It is a miracle. To help a child who is lost and unable to communicate, living in a very dark place and to take their hand and lead them to a place where they can be free, free from all unwanted behaviours and play again, is absolute magic.
Through the play the children were able to act out their traumas without having to communicate. Many were able to regress to an earlier stage in their development that had been missed. They were safe to go back and repair what they had missed. Through metaphor, stories and play, I understood how they were feeling and I could reflect this back to them, as many did not know how they felt or what had happened. In most parts I was there to accept the children and understand their language. I saw children who were self-harming, angry, unable to learn, transform into children, who could now begin to love themselves and develop loving relationships.
Many children simply do not have the verbal communication to be able to put their emotions and traumas into words. For many this can be a neurobiological disability or simply they do not have the skills to talk about how they are feeling. Some are simply too young to be able to verbalise yet. The combination of sand-tray therapy, drama, music, art therapy and puppets and clay work, as well as normal counselling skills, allow children to enter into their inner world and as a creative arts/play therapist we can follow. Learning to understand the true emotions of the child and at times without having to use the complication of the adult language, words, can heal a child. Sand-tray therapy and art therapy can help a child access their unconscious mind and allow it to begin to surface so they can become aware of their thoughts and feelings and who they truly are.
After qualifying and working as a therapist for some time and helping many children and their families, I came to realise that we as parents can sometimes be lost children, unable to truly communicate our emotions. I found the parents, of the children with whom I was working with had suppressed their emotions from their childhood and in turn were unknowingly placing these emotions onto their children. Of course this was not their fault, it was just they were unaware of their feelings and the emotions that many of their parents had placed onto them, just like their children. It was here that I could clearly see that you could also help adults in this same way. Many of us adults have not expressed our childhood emotions, so what a better way than to communicate in this same way. After further training and working with many families and children, I decided to set up my own private practice to help adults as well as young children and adolescents, while still continuing to work in schools.
The results were outstanding. Quickly adults were able to access many childhood traumas or suppressed emotions that they had never been allowed to do so for fear of being bad or wrong or having to care for others. Being able to use the unconscious mind to find emotions or early patterns and beliefs that had been set up, that may not be required now, which cannot be reached during verbal therapies, as the mind can get in the way, meant many adults were being freed of the chains that kept them depressed or self-harming or unable to truly live. Many found their relationships with their children became harmonious and truly loving. Through the sand-tray therapy and art therapy and using a non-judgemental, person-centred approach, which basically means I follow and accept the person in the very present moment, adults were beginning to heal from many childhood traumas, or loss, or emotional neglect. Adults who were self-harming, had eating disorders, suicidal, or had poor self-image, were beginning to heal and in turn many of their relationships with their children were improving and they were feeling alive.
It was then that I realised that if our relationship with our children improved, if we accessed our own unconscious mind or childhood emotions, then this was something that every parent could do with their children. So I trained to become a filial coach. This means I can now teach parents to offer play therapy/therapeutic play to their children. I suddenly realised that all parents could offer this to their children. It was here that I decided that I wanted to help all parents to become aware of Play Therapy and the techniques and how the unconscious mind can help us understand our children on a much deeper level to help us live much happier, content, fulfilled lives and relationships.
I then also trained to work with mothers and babies, because I fully understood the earlier we could adopt this approach, the more chance we have of helping our children grow into well-balanced children, who are able to express their emotions freely and live happy and fulfilled lives. The earlier we start the better chance we have of preventing any of the many issues that children face growing up.
I have also through my own journey trained as a Reiki therapist as I began to learn the power of the body and how we hold our emotions trapped inside our bodies and how our energy impacts our daily lives. I then developed the true gift of being able to heal the body through Reiki.
There is no child that cannot be helped in some way. An aggressive adult or child is a child that has not been truly heard or loved. A child who cannot listen is a child that has not been listened to. A child who is needy is a child that needs you. A child that talks in babyish language may need to be the baby again and be truly loved as a baby. A child, who cannot make friends, has never had a true friend. A child, who hurts others, is hurting. A child, who is selfish, has never been shared with. The list is endless and there is no child or adult that cannot be helped in some way. They just need to be heard and understood. But this may not be through words. The child that says he hates you, loves you and wants love. Our words are not what we often truly mean. Through creative art/play therapy we can truly understand our inner thoughts and actions.
Not only did I come to understand this through my training, but more importantly I understood all of this from my own experience with my children. I too was a parent before I trained. I too had children experiencing ADHD behaviours,, anger and bedwetting as a result of loss or divorce. I too have experienced all that life has to throw at us, but I have survived and truly understand the power of the unconscious mind and play/art. I know anything can be overcome and all of these behaviours of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loss, poor learning, poor peer relationships, concentration, can all be overcome. The power of acceptance and non-judgement and the ability to be loved, can overcome all of these behaviours. To free the mind of all suppressions, allows the heart to truly sing again. There is no badness in us, just a child that has not been heard or loved. There are just behaviours that we adopt for survival. Through the therapy we come to learn why we have adopted certain survival techniques and we come to learn that when we are in an accepting and loving environment, that we may no longer need these survival techniques that can often not be good for our health. As adults we may turn to drink, food, sex, exercise and drugs to help silence the suppressed feelings of the unconscious mind or the child. As children we lie, steal, cheat, get angry, become obsessed with technology and computer games, all to escape the world that we live in. I too have followed this journey. So not only do I know the power of its true healing from the mind, I know it from the heart.
Take this journey with me and learn to love and be free again. Truly learn to love yourself or your children, or simply come and understand what it is that you may not have understood as a child, or maybe it’s your child that is misunderstood and your child is talking in a language that you do not understand and you want to be able to truly hear what your child is saying, but not from the traditional verbal way. Come and try a new way of understanding. Free yourself and your child from all the unwanted behaviours and live the most amazing life… You deserve it. There is no judgment, only understanding