Play Therapy Techniques for the Changing Family

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by: Tammy Stoner LCSW

If there is one truism today, it is that the family has changed, and it has changed dramatically. We are complicated. The image of 1955, complete with the nuclear family as portrayed in the old television show, Leave it to Beaver, just doesn't exist. Not even close.

Don't get me wrong, there are some of these nuclear families consisting of Mom, Dad and children born to the same Mom and Dad today, it's just that they are in diminishing supply.

Today the very definition of what constitutes a family is much broader.
In fact sometimes I wonder if we even know how to describe the "family". There are the "old fashioned nuclear families" originating from days gone by, and there are single parent families, step families, blended families, adopted families, and on and on.

Today children are raised in a variety of constellations, and the clinical tools available to formulate assessments, has not kept up with the changing family. There is a shortage of treatment tools, and models to explore the changing family.

Speak to any marriage and family therapist, and they can tell you stories of men and women married 3, 4, 5,6, 7 times. Sometimes they aren't married when they have children, they just have children from a partner. Hence we now have words such as "my baby's daddy", or "my baby's mommy", as a part of mainstream culture.

Each parent may have a child from a variety of partnerships; some were husband and wife, some not. It's not easy describing the multitude of constellations, even in this article. It's even more difficult tracking it in a treatment session.

Monica McCormick has made some wonderful contributions in exploring the genogram in families. She has helped provide treatment providers with a model to explore the family, and to map out these relationships through symbols such as x's and dashes and circles and squares, all adding to the ease in reading these relationships.

Unfortunately the model is limited. It is one dimensional and flat. It is formulated on a piece of paper, and usually the 8 ½ x 11 standard sheet of paper just isn't large enough to track the information. They are difficult relationships to remember for a therapist.

We are desperately in need of new models. Models that move beyond the flat, one dimensional model of the genogram. We need models that "bring to life" these relationships. We need models that can be shaped and moved, and remembered by treatment providers. We need models that give depth to treatment sessions.

I have originated a model applying teddy bears in sessions. I don't claim to have all of the answers, but I do claim to have developed the fastest model available to clinicians today. It organizes teddy bears into the family system. It allows for a fluctuating family system, and it can be molded, sculpted and changed, as the family changes.

Teddy Bears have demonstrated remarkable results with clients in individual, family and group treatment sessions. I am not speaking about holding a teddy bear, and talking with it for comfort. That works, and there is certainly nothing new about that. After all, teddy bears are known to provide comfort to people.

I am speaking about a method that moves beyond providing comfort, and takes the clinical knowledge we have learned, and organizes it into a living, moving family system that generates fast results in sessions. I call the model the Teddy Bear Technique®. It's called a technique, because that is what it is. It is a method that you can utilize to get fast results with people originating from a variety of family systems, and it applies teddy bears in it's process.

The great feature of teddy bears applied in this model, is that they are appealing to everybody. They are one of the first objects an infant attaches to, and as such, they are natural objects for attachment. They can quickly reach the heart of the matter. It is such a shock to have a treatment provider introduce a teddy bear in a session, that that in and of itself creates an immediate shift in the session. Organize it into the family, and you will give it depth. You will also gain a powerful and dramatic assessment tool, that gives you fast results.

I invite you to learn more about this model, and it's effectiveness with people of every age, race and socioeconomic group. I have organized the teachings into a total toolkit to provide you with rapid assessments and interventions. I invite you to visit my website at Copyright © March 8 2007

About the Author
Tammy Stoner is a licensed clinical social worker and trained family therapist. She developed the Teddy Bear Technique® following the sudden and unexpected death of a spouse and discovered a very fast method of generating treatment results when exploring family systems. She has organized the model into a toolkit for health care professionals. She has authored a book called The Seven Minute Social Worker, and has published many articles. She has been featured on television and radio, and in newspapers throughout the United States.

Tammy Stoner LCSW

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