Last week, I experienced one of the most beautiful sessions in terms of energy sharing and shifting; I want to share the (unplanned) interventions that were used in the session.
I had a variety of interventions prepared for my 5/6-year-old (all male) group. I’ve seen them twice prior, and know that they respond really well to movement, instrument playing, and silly songs. My goal with the group was to continue increasing group cohesion and develop those ever-needed social skills. I work with each child individually as well, and keep their individual goals in the back of my mind during sessions. Some of the children need some behavioral modification, and all of them are actively seeking safe ways to tell their story and express themselves. They are all extremely energetic and goofy, and I had yet to see them do anything much below surface level energy or emotion work.
As it goes, I had to trash my entire plan when the two clients came in. They were both in extremely subdued and vulnerable spaces. They each shared something that had happened that day that had made them cry; apparently they had already talked about it together before coming in, and were encouraging the other to speak freely about crying. Because they are still learning to not interrupt each other, I use an egg shaker as the ‘magical speaking instrument.’ Whoever is holding the instrument can share, and to obtain the instrument, you have to raise your hand. Even while they were sharing and supporting each other, I had them use the shaker. When they were done sharing, they stared at me with these incredibly sad and vulnerable eyes. We of course processed some of the things they had talked about, but I could tell that they needed something extra. I gave each child two egg shakers, and prompted them to imagine that these were ‘healing shakers.’ The shakes were going to travel up our arms and make our scrapes stop hurting, travel to our chests and heads and body and everything else that hurt, and help it go away. The boys, who usually hate everything ‘cheesy,’ immediately grabbed onto the idea. I played guitar while they gently shook their instruments. We moved through different parts of our bodies that needed to heal, and eventually started to speed up our instruments to help us ‘feel better.’ We played until they started to relax, and then we played until they started to smile.
I then proceeded with a few of the interventions that I know they like, but significantly more subdued than usual.
Hot Potato: Using only one egg shaker, the clients face each other and toss the egg shaker back and forth while I played guitar. When the guitar stopped, whoever was holding the instrument had to answer a question that I asked. The clients really enjoy the actual tossing and catch part, so we spend a lot more time doing that than answering questions.
Freeze: I had the clients pick an instrument each, as well as choose an instrument for me to play. Each of us took turns being the ‘leader.’ The leader is in charge of yelling “Go!” and “Stop!” or “Freeze!” During the ‘go’ portion, we ran around the room (safely) playing our instruments in any way we wanted. We of course had to stop when the leader told us to. This always results in raucous laughter, because someone inevitably starts yelling ‘gostopgostopgostopgo.’
Credit: Arianna 😉
Story Time w/ Instruments: This group has really started to enjoy assigning instruments to characters in books and playing them when the character is mentioned. Last week we used Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which was a really easy way to teach the concept of character/instrument associations. I had not planned to do this again, but the clients specifically requested the intervention. I used a book that I’ve used a lot recently for discussing anger, The Grouchies. We flipped through the book to find the characters (the boy, the sister, the mom, and the dad), and I let them pick one instrument per character. While I read the book, I simply left space after each mention of a character for the clients to play the appropriate instrument.
I had a few more active interventions planned, but the clients just weren’t in that space. I instead moved them over to my relaxation corner, which is complete with bean bag chairs and dim lighting. I attempted, for the first time in this setting, some guided imagery while playing meterless guitar. Because both clients had mentioned that physical pain had made them cry that day, I used a script from The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids: Help for Children to Cope with Stress, Anxiety, and Transition that is geared specifically towards pain. I had low expectations for the experience; both boys are very energetic and have a hard time sitting still. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the boys began answering the question prompts (What color do you see?). Both boys visibly relaxed and seemed to respond well to the script. And with that final shift in energy, we ended our session.
I’ve experienced some deep energy shifts in sessions, but never with clients so young. These clients were at the age where they are starting to let go of their magical thinking, but might try ‘healing shakers’ if you spin it just the right way, and they’re in just the right space. I know that the only thing I can expect is to be surprised, especially as a new professional. It was such a good reminder that I can’t ever expect my clients to act or respond a certain way, even if I’ve known them for a few months.