Monday, June 4, 2012

Psychology, Counseling, and RIE

Before I began working at Tumbleweeds, I went to school for Counseling Psychology. When I started working at TIH I began my journey of learning all about RIE. Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) was founded in 1978 by Magda Gerber to help improve the quality of infant care and education. What is not as well known about Magda is that she was a child therapist before founding RIE. After immersing myself in the RIE approach, I have found many similarities between the primary tenants of RIE and various Psychology theories and Counseling therapies. The reason this is important is that if carers follow the RIE approach from birth on, they are helping children become emotionally healthy individuals. The RIE approach offers children opportunities and tools early on to deal with stress, to deal with changes, to understand concepts such as self-worth and self-esteem so that children develop and continually build-on internal resources they can use as they grow as individuals.

Person-Centered therapy was developed by Carl Rogers for working with adult clients. Within this approach, therapists establish three main conditions, which are similar to what carers establish following the RIE approach. The first condition is empathic understanding, which is understanding who the client is and how he/she perceives the world. Within RIE, being able to understand what a child is feeling helps the child feel safe, secure, and respected, which leads to the child becoming an independent explorer of her world.

The second condition within Person-Centered therapy is having unconditional positive regard for a client by accepting who they are without judging them. It is about appreciating and valuing the person. Within RIE, this means accepting who a child is and trusting that the child is internally motivated to learn and explore his environment. Appreciating without judging allows a child to develop at her own pace by observing and learning from the child and accepting that the child will progress emotionally and physically through independent, unforced, exploration.

The final condition within Person-Centered therapy is congruence, which is being genuine and authentic. This relates not only to the client having congruency between his/her thoughts and behaviors, but also the therapist being genuine with the client. In RIE, it is vital for a carer to be genuine with a child. This not only shows a child that it is okay to have various thoughts and feelings, but also allows the child to feel safe to express any feeling that she may have. Noticing when a child is feeling sad, happy, embarrassed, angry, etc. shows the child that he is understood, what he is feeling at any given time is okay and important to his emotional growth.

Non-Directive Play therapy is based off of Person-Centered therapy and is used to help children communicate their internal experiences through play. Just as with Person-Centered therapy, Non-Directive play therapists maintain unconditional acceptance and positive regard for their clients, but their clients are young children, instead of adults. This approach is even more similar to the properties of RIE that relate to exploration and play.

The key elements of Non-Directive Play therapy are trust, respect, and confidence in the child's ability to direct the play. Young children who have gone through challenges or have experienced a crisis often do not have the language or cognitive skills to communicate their emotional experiences through words. Non-Directive Play therapy is based on the theory that play is a child's language and toys represent the “words” and themes that a child uses to express his/her inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences. By providing a safe, free, and non-forceful play environment it allows the client to work through deeper experiences. The therapist observes what the child is doing and only gets involved in the play if the child invites the therapist into the play.

Within RIE, carers allow children ample, uninterrupted play, where they can explore toys and objects in a safe environment. Carers often observe what children are doing and take notice by commenting on what they are doing without judging and often without asking questions. Children are free to explore and direct their play, learn, and grow as they experience their world through toys, art, and objects. This is a primary way children communicate their inner world to others, not only within Non-Directive Play therapy, but also within RIE.

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