Archive of ‘Mental Health’ category

How Play Therapy is More Than Just Playing

There are many reasons why play therapy is more than just playing.  To a parent, play therapy can seem confusing.  You may find yourself wondering, “this therapist is going to play with my child… how is this going to help them not have meltdowns/manage their anxiety/build their self-esteem?”.  All good and valid questions!  

To an outsider, play therapy can appear very much like just playing a board game, playing in the sand, or playing with a baby doll.  And honestly, it can sometimes very much feel like you ARE just playing!  However, it is much more than that.  And here’s why:

1. The child and client spend a full 50 minutes of uninterrupted time together.

There are NO cell phones, computers, or TV’s.  There is no other person to take the therapist’s or client’s attention away.  The two people in that room are in full connection with one another while playing, bonding, and in a positive, safe, nurturing environment.  A child does not experience this often outside of the playroom.  Not only at school but also in the home there are often distractions.  Teachers and caregivers are usually multitasking.  Teachers are managing an entire classroom full of students. Parents are usually trying to do laundry, cooking, cleaning, working, etc. etc. because being a parent means a very busy life.  Having a full 50 minutes of uninterrupted time with an adult creates a pristine time to learn and grow.  

2. The therapist is constantly reflecting and validating.  

The therapist is constantly reflecting the client’s thoughts, feelings and actions.  The purpose of doing such is that this communicates to the child that they are being understood, listened to, and that they are important.  This is HUGE for a child! Reflecting to the child sounds like, “you like this toy”, or, “you’re feeling playful”, or, “you’re scooping the sand”. Validating sounds like, “that would have scared me too”.  Children are unfortunately often dismissed and not seen this clearly due to distractions in everyday life.  During this time children are learning what their feelings are by this being reflected to them.  When their feelings are validated they feel reassured that they are not overreacting and are understood. 

3. Children use their behavior/play to communicate. 

Children’s brains are under intense development.  Because children lack the brain maturation to verbally say what they want to express, they use their behavior/play to do this.  Adults talk during therapy, kids play during therapy.  When a child feels safe and is provided the time, the tools, and the opportunity, they will show you what they are experiencing through their play.  For example, a child may play out a difficult family dynamic with dolls and a dollhouse.  The child will continue to play out this dynamic and/or situation until they have fully processed what this is like for them, what they are struggling with, and how to move forward.  The therapist is there to support, play if requested by the child, reflect/validate this experience, and keep the child safe. 

Another example is that a child chooses to play a board game with the therapist.  This activity involves a lot of interaction between the pair which increases their connection.  While the child is playing this game, they may be working on mastering it.  The child is able to play this game without intense competition or rivalry.  Again, the child is not provided this opportunity often outside of the playroom.  Mastering the game naturally improves the child’s confidence, problem solving skills, and frustration tolerance. Another version of board game play in the playroom is the child may manipulate the game and make up their own rules and cheat to win.  During this type of play the therapist is paying close attention to how the child manipulates/cheats as this can indicate that this is how the child feels outside of the playroom.  They may feel misunderstood, cheated, frustrated, and that life is unfair.  For the child to be able to communicate and control this provides a huge relief for them and gives the therapist great insight for what the child endures outside of the playroom. 

Final Thoughts

In the playroom, children are learning and growing through EXPERIENCES, rather than talking.  Board games, a dollhouse and dolls, costumes, or sandtray all present lessons to be learned and different opportunities for the client to process thoughts and feelings.  When you ask your child, “what did you do in the playroom today?” don’t be alarmed if they say “I played in the sand and painted”.  I assure you they ARE learning and growing.  Therapy for kids just looks different than therapy for adults. 

Something worth noting is that depending on the age of the client and the therapeutic approach being used, activities targeting treatment goals may be incorporated into sessions.  If you are considering play therapy for your child I encourage you to discuss this with the therapist to ensure you find the right fit for you and your child!  Every child is different; as is the therapist.  It’s important that everyone feels confident and comfortable!


Dion, L. D. (n.d.). Making Games Therapeutic in Play Therapy. “Lessons from the Playroom.”

Landreth, G. L. (1991). Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship.

Exploring the Depths of Self-Esteem: Unveiling the Power Within

The Significance of Self-Esteem

“Self-esteem” is a well established buzz word that is popular in society and the mental healthcare community alike. Self-esteem can be seen practiced in daily affirmations with young children, celebrated in the body positivity movement, or perhaps less obviously in a comedian’s self-deprecating humor. Academically, self-esteem has been generously defined and researched as an overall self-evaluation, existing on a continuum from high to low, and measured by the amount of capability, success, worth, and value people assign to themselves (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). It is an ever evolving construct that persistently trends, and my purpose in writing this note, to whomever it may find, is to spark curiosity, serve as a reminder, or add depth to your journey with self-esteem.  

Exploring Meanings and Implications

I would like to invite you to take a moment to reflect on what self-esteem means to you. What words do you associate with self-esteem? What connotation does it have? What does high or low self-esteem look like? Where does it show up in life? What comes up for you? What is it like for you to reflect on this concept? For some, self-esteem may simply be associated with confidence. Others may visualize someone that is hunched over and looking at the ground. While it may be considered a personal strength to some, it can be stigmatized, uncomfortable, or heavy for others. A mental health practitioner doing this exercise may recall that low self-esteem can be correlated with anxiety, depression, disordered eating, substance use, career difficulties, relationship issues, and many other mental health concerns. Personally, I have learned that self-esteem is more nuanced, influential, and powerful than it appears on the surface, and it is worth a deeper look.

Impacts on Wellness, Decision Making, and Resilience

Research reports that high self-esteem may predict physical and mental wellness and personal satisfaction in life and relationships (Arsandaux et al., 2020; Moksnes & Espnes, 2013). It is also associated with improved decision making and productivity, coping with stress and overcoming adversity through resiliency, and these are only a few examples of many. Overall, a correlation between a positive view of self and general health and happiness demands further inquiry. It feels necessary to note that by no means is self-esteem a magic wand, and I want to honor all those navigating their unique obstacles in their own power and timing. However, if this message calls to you and you find yourself on a treasure hunt for mental health “tools”, I wonder what may come of a check-in with self-evaluation, whether it’s a tune up or a brand new exploration. While this task may feel daunting, my wish is that what you are looking for may appear on a journey of falling in love with yourself.


Arsandaux, Montagni, Macalli, Bouteloup, Tzourio, & Galera. (2020). Health Risk Behaviors and Self-Esteem Among College Students: Systematic Review of Quantitative Studies. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 27. 10.1007/s12529-020-09857-w.

Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs. (2003). Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 4. 1-44. 10.1111/1529-1006.01431. 

Moksnes, U. K., & Espnes, G. A. (2013). Self-esteem and life satisfaction in adolescents—Gender and age as potential moderators. Quality of Life Research: An International Journal of Quality of Life Aspects of Treatment, Care & Rehabilitation, 22(10), 2921–2928.

Raising Awareness of Mental Health in the AAPI Community

May is recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. These two observances provide an opportunity for us to reflect on the unique challenges faced by the AAPI community when it comes to mental health and well-being.  The intersection of AAPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month is significant because mental health is an essential aspect of overall health and well-being, and it affects everyone, regardless of cultural background.  For the AAPI community, Mental Health Awareness Month is particularly important as there can be cultural barriers to seeking mental health support.  In this blog, I would like to discuss some of the unique mental health challenges faced by the AAPI community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on AAPI mental health, with a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and xenophobia causing increased anxiety, depression, and trauma.  Even before the pandemic, AAPI mental health was already a concern due to various factors such as racism, discrimination, and acculturation stress.  However, research shows that many AAPI individuals are less likely to seek mental health help or utilize mental health services among other racial and ethnic groups.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), AAPIs have the lowest utilization rates of mental health services compared to any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, only 8.6% of AAPIs with a mental illness sought treatment in 2019. 

There are many mental health challenges that impact the AAPI communities.  Some of these challenges include:


In many AAPI cultures, mental health issues are often viewed as a personal weakness or a family disgrace. This stigma can make it difficult for individuals to seek mental health care.  One factor contributing to this stigma is the cultural emphasis on “saving face” and maintaining a positive image.  “Saving face” in Asian culture emphasizes the importance of maintaining harmony and avoiding confrontation, embarrassment, or shame.  The pressure to save face can have negative effects on mental health.  In some cases, individuals may feel compelled to hide their emotions or difficulties, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. The fear of losing face or being seen as weak may also prevent individuals from seeking help for mental health issues or from expressing their emotions in a healthy way.

Language Barrier

The language barrier is a significant issue for AAPI individuals seeking mental health services. Many AAPI individuals are not proficient in English, and may have difficulty communicating their mental health concerns to healthcare providers who do not speak their native language. This can lead to misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and other negative outcomes.  AAPI Individuals often find it difficult to find mental health professionals who understand their cultural background and experiences.  Some AAPI individuals may not have access to mental health resources in their native language or may not feel comfortable discussing mental health issues with a mental health professional who does not share their cultural background.

Cultural Beliefs and Values

Collectivism is often emphasized in many AAPI cultures, which places a strong emphasis on family and community ties. This can manifest in a sense of obligation to one’s family and community, as well as a willingness to prioritize the needs of the group over the needs of the individual.  This can create a sense of pressure to conform to societal expectations and norms, which may include downplaying or ignoring mental health concerns. This can make it difficult for individuals to seek help for mental health issues as they may fear judgment, shame or that seeking help may be perceived as a weakness or failure of the family or community as a whole.  In addition, there may be a cultural belief that mental health issues should be kept within the family or community and not discussed outside of it. This can lead to a lack of awareness of mental health resources outside of the community and a reluctance to seek help from mental health professionals who are not familiar with the cultural background and beliefs of the AAPI community. 

Lack of Culturally Competent Providers

AAPI individuals may be hesitant to seek treatment from mental health professionals who are not familiar with their culture or may not understand their experiences.  Furthermore, there may be a shortage of mental health providers who are trained to understand and address the unique mental health needs of AAPI individuals.

Historical Trauma 

AAPI individuals may also experience intergenerational trauma related to historical events such as war, colonization, racism, discrimination and forced migration.  These traumas can have a lasting impact on the mental health and well-being of AAPI individuals and their families, often leading to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Model Minority Myth

The “model minority” stereotype that portrays AAPI individuals as successful and high-achieving can create pressure and stigma for those who may be struggling with mental health issues.  The model minority myth can lead to dismissive attitudes towards the mental health struggles of AAPI individuals.  The model minority myth can also create a perception that AAPI individuals do not face the same level of discrimination and systemic barriers as other minority groups. This can lead to a lack of understanding and support for the mental health struggles that AAPI individuals may face, such as racism, xenophobia, and cultural marginalization.

To address mental health concerns among AAPI communities, it is essential to promote culturally sensitive mental health services that take into account the unique needs and challenges of AAPI individuals.  These services may include bilingual mental health professionals, culturally sensitive therapy approaches, and community-based mental health programs.  By recognizing and addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by AAPI individuals, we can improve mental health outcomes and promote overall health and well-being.  It is important for individuals within the AAPI community to prioritize their mental health and seek help when needed.  It is important to have mental health care providers who are culturally competent and able to understand and respect the unique cultural values and beliefs of AAPI communities so that the individuals seeking help will feel seen, heard and understood.  This can help create a safe and supportive environment for individuals seeking mental health help, and increase the likelihood that they will continue to seek treatment and support.

In conclusion, AAPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month are important observances that intersect in meaningful ways. By working to reduce stigma and provide culturally sensitive care, we can support the mental health of the AAPI community and build a more inclusive and equitable society for all.  Let’s use this month as an opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultures, experiences, and contributions of AAPI individuals, and to raise awareness about the importance of mental health.  

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