Getting to know - Non-directive therapeutic play - Who are you?

A great island we created after almost 2 years of training in therapeutic play 
( Block 2 Training Diploma in Play Therapy KL by APAC October 2017)

Orientation to play practice using non-directive play therapy through role-plays as therapist, client, and observer.

A reflective commentary on Virginia Axline’s Principles based on sand tray exercise on 25/10/2015

Azizah Othman

Word counts:

Play therapy is one approach to enhance children’s psychological development. The foundation of play work is based on eight principles drawn by Virginia Axline as described by Barnes (2013). We used sand tray exercises to observe and experience these principles in actions. At some points, the scenario presented below might be seen as superficial because we were limited by several factors including being at an early stage of training, restricted time and space, and the needs to meet the perceived demands and expectations from the instructor. This essay outlines brief descriptions of the activities and my reflective comments and learning on those principles as I played my roles as therapist, observer, and client.

(a)    Being a therapist
First, I started as therapist. As I followed my client around, choosing her toys, I hoped to indicate that I was keen to having her in the session. She just nodded when I informed basic rules in play therapy. It appeared that smooth (i) establishment and acceptance of limits are possible, at least with this particular client. Throughout the play, the client spoke no word neither she looked at me. I struggled to show (ii) warm and friendly attitude, in a silent, one-to–one moment like that. It is tricky to indicate warmth and friendly attitude when eye contact and verbal communication are not present. I resorted to keep looking at her with much interest, hoping that would deliver the same messages. Upon group reflection, she admitted feeling comfortable having me besides her as therapist.

There was one quick moment when the client dismantled and brushed away her creation. I was surprise and shouted ‘NO’ inside my heart, trying to stop her. I felt sad that special creation was destroyed. I recognized feeling pretty dishearten and disappointed. I thought she might feel the same and I felt like rescuing her. I knew then and now that I might need to process those feelings myself. During that moment, I made myself aware fairly quickly that the session was completely hers’. Therapist must (iii) develop permissive environment so that the client can freely express her emotions. Soon as I got things on hold back again, I calmed myself and remained neutral. I engaged with client and her play. Not long after that, contrary to my initial expectation about the effect of the destruction, my client was still playing happily. I was very pleased to not stop or rescue her earlier.

(b)   Being an observer
Secondly, I became an observer. I was really keen to see how other ‘therapist’ plays their roles and how the client responded. I was pretty amazed to observe the therapist looking at the client – almost all the time, without failed. She did not even make a slight move throughout the session neither she said anything to the client. Indeed, she was sitting still and doing the same task for almost 30 minutes. When we reflected in group, the therapist admitted feeling uncomfortable sitting in that position and wished the client to change her position a bit so that she could do the same. However, since no one moved, they remained in that position until the end of the session. I thought changing positions should not be a big problem, and therapist too, in addition to the client, has right to feel comfortable in the session.

I observed the client was engaged in her play. She had exciting toys and played interesting story on the sand tray. I thought if I were the therapist, I might be engrossed in her story – one thing I should be aware of too. I suppose therapist should not let themselves been absorbed in the client’s story. The main focus of the therapy - the child, could be jeopardized. Whilst the story might be important, the child as a person is more important. The client I observed had long story to tell that the time given seemed insufficient for her to end the story. The therapist made series of counting to prepare the client to end the play. This technique corresponds to the (iv) principle of not hurry the therapy along when the child in play by giving them earlier notices that at some points before they need to stop.

(c)    Being a client
Finally, I was my turn to become a client. It was my first time experience playing sand tray and I was excited. I remembered having my personal goal for that particular exercise. I wanted to work out problems and difficulties in my life – I told myself. Toys I chose to play with were something big, harmful, and dangerous, such as crocodile, black scorpion, and snakes. I added people, tree, and stones that represent natural surroundings. I listened to the starting rules presented by the therapist and had no problems co-operating. Having the therapist sat next to me, I played freely. I suppose with the way she presented herself, I felt (v) accepted and comfortable to just do whatever I wanted on the sand tray.

There was time during my play that I wanted to share my story with the therapist. I asked her if she wanted to know what the story was about. Rather than simply responding yes, she asked me back whether I wanted her to know. I thought that respond was interesting. The (vi) therapist gave the client options to choose and make decision. This is one example how a child can learn new skills and grow from play therapy experience.

On another occasion, I made it explicit through non-verbal gestures that I wanted her to join me moving the soldiers out from inside the sand. (vii) Being alert to my needs, she responded and did the same very carefully. The principle of (viii) child leads, therapist follows was applied here too. I thought at that particular time, I would prefer if the therapist uses verbal language, i.e. talk to me during play, instead of just responding to my gestures. However, I am now realized that therapist should not try to direct conversations. Thus, as a client, it was my responsibility to express my need explicitly so that therapist would respond appropriately.

In short, I am amazed how this approach is very child-focused and non-directive in nature. I am aware that I have to slowly unlearn my previous learning on psychotherapy to comply with Axline’s principles. I believe there will be vast experiential learning I acquire when I start my training with real children.  

Barnes, M.A. (2013). The healing path with children – An exploration for parents and professionals. 3rd eds. England: The Play Therapy Press Limited.

Disclaimer: This essay is part of my assignment submitted to APAC as required in Certificate of Therapeutic Play Skills by Play Therapy International. 

Beginning of a new journey-again

I am starting my Diploma in play therapy today. Bismillahirahmanirahim


Hampir 18 bulan yang lalu, pada tarikh 1 Jun 2013, saya dianugerah Allah seorang permata hati. Nurul Ilham Muhammad Junaidi hadir  menambah manis, asam dan garam dalam kehidupan saya. 

Sungguh 'kerjaya' sebagai ibu itu istimewa. Ia bersifat tetap, sentiasa, dan hampir tiada ruang untuk kesilapan. Tiada manual kerja, tiada latihan sebelum perkhidmatan, tiada staf sokongan, tiada  cuti, atau ganjaran tetap bulanan. Yang ada adalah jangkaan kendiri, dan luaran, "anda mesti menjadi ibu yang paling baik" dan "cuma anak yang baik, akan disayangi ramai". Besar jangkaan ini - sedang 'baik' itu sangat subjektif.

Terlalu banyak pelajaran yang dikutip melaluinya dan terlalu besar pertolongan Allah datangkan bersamanya, Alhamdulillah.

Walau telah lama saya sangat mahu menulis mengenai cahaya yang satu ini, limitasi diri tidak mengizinkannya. Nurul Ilham mengelilingi persekitaran hidup saya - sekurang-kurangnya sehingga hari ini. Masa tanpa dia adalah harta, yang perlu saya bahagi  sebijak mungkin, dan melaksanakan semua keperluan dan tuntutan lain. Untuk itu, saya mohon berbanyak maaf - saya sedar, banyak tuntutan dan hak yang gagal saya penuhi dengan sempurna.

Sebelum 2014 melabuhkan tirainya, saya berhajat 'menyimpan' kenangan cahaya ini disini. Semoga Nurul Ilham terus membesar sempurna menjadi anak solehah. 

1 month
















Telah hampir setahun setengah Allah meminjamkan cahaya ini kepada kami. Alhamdulillah. Moga kami terus diberikan kebaikan dunia dan akhirat.


Gambar ikhsan

Kehadapan anakanda yang disayangi,

tulisan ini bermaksud menyatakan rasa hati
terpendam beberapa lama
tidak mampu lagi tersimpan

kami cuba bercerita
setelah terlalu lama kita berdiam
dan hati kita menjauh
walau zahir kita bersama

sebenarnya kami khuatir.
tingkahmu seakan mengalah.
pada takdir yang belum sudah.

sebenarnya kami bimbang
lakumu seakan sumbang
hari-hari mu tidak lagi seimbang

sebenarnya kami bersedih
pada kusut dan perit

sebenarnya kami cuba.
tetapi gagal menelah punca
lalu biarlah kami menduga
kalau-kalau ada kebenaran pada keadaan

kalau takdir yang dulu masih didendam
moga Allah mengampuni khilaf kami
lalu kami amat mahu membaiki hari ini

kalau percaturan hari ini menjadi beban
tabah lah anak
kami masih ingat semangat mu yang kuat dulu
usaha lagi
Janji Allah itu pasti

sebenarnya kami buntu
tidak pasti untuk membantu
atau terus diam
melihat saja
waktu yang berharga 
berlalu begitu sahaja

kami mengharap amat, anak
Allah Maha Menolong hambaNya yang meminta

"Selamat Hari Lahir. Umi doakan yang baik-baik sahaja"


Belum lama

27.12.2009 - Bukit Badong

Hampir 5 tahun saya mengenal dia
Belum lama
Belum puas bersamanya

Seperti baru semalam
… mendengar tanyanya “Would you like to spend the rest of your life with me?”
… mengagumi azamnya memenuh impi
…menikmati meriah Raja Sehari
… memadu janji suami-isteri

Seperti baru semalam
… berkongsi airmata mengiring malam yang gundah
… menyaksi senyum syukur lewat operasi yang panjang
… ditatang belai bagai minyak tak tumpah
… terus menyemai percaya dan sayang

Seperti baru semalam
… mendengar berita  pasca-bedah
… terpana kami dengan kuasa Allah yang benar
… bertekad untuk sambung berjuang
… berkongsi usaha untuk menang
… redha kami lalu pada ketentuan

Seperti baru semalam
… mendengar sebak sayu laungan azan
… untuk cahaya permata hatinya
…melihat dalam matanya - kepuasan yang amat
… menyaksi kesungguhannya – menjadi ayah yang hebat

Seperti baru semalam
… dia terus-menerus memberi kekuatan
…memayung kami dengan perhatian
… bersabar dia dengan segala yang kurang
… dia membukti kasih sayang
… bertahan dia dengan segala ketidakpastian

Hampir 5 tahun saya mengenal dia
Belum lama
Belum puas bersamanya

Moga Allah memberkati perhubungan ini.

Perhargaan ini sempena ulangtahun kelahirannya pada 10 Mac.
p.s. Selamat hari lahir, abang. Maaf, sering sahaja sibuk-sibuk kebelakangan ini.


Menjadi kuat kadang-kadang melemahkan - melemaskan malah
Lalu dia memilih untuk lemah
Dan dalam kerangka kelemahan
Dia mengasah  kekuatan yang menumpul

Syukran Ya Allah.


Moga pedih yang sedikit diberi Allah ini menjadi ingatan kepada diri yang lupa.

Untuk kepedihan ini, Allah mengingatkan:

- tentang persoalan hati adalah hakNya jua - siapalah saya untuk membuat penilaian, apa lagi sibuk bertanya mengapa begini dan begitu.

- tentang kenikmatan yang terlalu banyak dikurnia Allah sehingga sebahagiannya berlalu begitu sahaja tanpa sempat mensyukurinya - betapa saya lalai untuk berterima kasih.

- tentang keadaan mengizinkan diri menjadi kurang daripada biasa atas alasan dangkal kekangan kesihatan - siapa saya yang layak memberi justifikasi hak sendiri sentiasa melebihi mereka.

Untuk kepedihan ini, Ya Allah, ampunkan lah dosa-dosa hambaMu ini.

Berikanlah kekuatan untuk menjadi hambaMu yang lebih bertaqwa.

It feels this way - or worse

La Tahzan, Innallaha ma'ana

Azam Baru I

LINUS Outreach Screening @ Pasir Putih (Image is irrelevant)
"Ya, saya ada masa untuk perkara itu"
"Saya tidak sibuk"
"Ya, saya akan penuhi undangan tersebut"
"Ya, terima kasih atas rujukan"
"Baik, saya terima cabaran ini"
"Sudah pasti!"
"Saya lapang hari ini"
"Boleh saja, apa salahnya"
"Ya, dialu-alukan"
"Alhamdulillah, Allah beri peluang saya melaksanakan tanggungjawab ini"
"Sudah tentu!"
"Pasti boleh, datang jumpa saya sekarang juga"
"Saya akan berjumpanya sekarang"

Whilst being assertive and saying no without feeling guilty is a good skill to master, using it as an excuse to escape is not.

It does not feel good inside to say  "I know this is good, but I don't have time to do it"
It feels even hurt inside to hear comments like "Dr Azizah tu memang sangat busy".

Professor Zabidi Azhar Hussin once mentioned in his all-the-time outstanding talk

"Masa itu rezeki daripada Allah, secara luaran- diberi sama rata kepada semua, namun mohonlah diberi kelapangan dan keluasan dalam rezeki bernama masa ini"

So, my du'a now will go like this:

Ya Allah yang Maha Kaya, luas dan lapangkan lah masaku, agar mampu aku mendapat rezeki yang halal dan dirahmatiMu, agar aku mampu menjawab tanyaMu diakhirat kelak - bagaimana rezeki ilmuku ini diamal dan dimanfaatkan, agar aku lebih hampir padaMu, agar ramai lagi boleh meneladani dan memahami, dan seterusnya mendekatiMu jua. Perkenankan lah Ya Allah. 

Putih dan polos


Pagi ini saya meminta En Azeli PAR di Jabatan untuk membawakan 50 naskhah Modul Psikologi daripada Jabatan Perubatan Masyarakat ke pejabat saya. Ya, modul pertama yang diusahakan sejak 2 tahun sudah telah berjaya diterbit dan selesai dicetak minggu sudah. Terasa puas  dapat membeleknya, Alhamdulillah

Sederhana saja sifatnya - kecil, putih dan polos

Modul Psikologi bertujuan menjadi bahan rujukan untuk guru-guru di Pusat Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti (PDK). Penerbitannya seiring dengan program pendidikan kemasyarakatan menyeluruh dibawah geran kajian universiti (RU) "Sustainable Optimal Services for Disabled in Kelantan" diketuai pakar perubatan masyarakat, Dr Azriani A Rahman. Bengkel 5 hari di Kampus Kesihatan USM diketuai dua pengarang telah dilaksanakan bagi memberi pendedahan langsung kepada guru-guru PDK sekitar Kelantan mengenai penggunaan kaedah psikologi bagi menghadapi masalah emosi dan tingkahlaku kanak-kanak kurang upaya. Moga usaha yang sedikit ini diberkati Allah dan memberi manfaat kepada Ummah. 

'Model Rabiatul Adawiyah' menunjukkan cara menegangkan otot lengan dan tangan
Adat cubaan  pertama, ada beberapa perkara asas yang tidak memuaskan hati. Namun melalui kekurangan yang ada, muncul pula idea dan peluang untuk menerbit dan mencetak makalah sisipan bersama - mungkin kelak dinamakan Lampiran Kerja Modul Psikologi lantaran wang penerbitan yang masih berbaki.

"Iman, jika membaca entri ini, tolong dapatkan saya alamat anda berenam, terima kasih"
Saya berniat menghadiahkan naskhah ini kepada 6 pelajar yang terlibat sama dalam penulisan awal modul ini, semasa mereka menjalani praktikum disini, sekitar dua tahun lepas. Nurul Iman, Rusila, Intan Suraya, Siti Aminah, Maheran dan Norshazwani, saya perlu dapatkan alamat kalian.