Goals of a Play Therapy Group for Moms


Our Creative Mothers Group has enjoyed two sessions of internal and relational processes, and the experience has deepened our understandings of the potential for healing, which is also described by Christine Caldwell, Ph.D., LPC, BC-DMT in her article Adult Group Play Therapy: Passion and Purpose.

“One of the features of adult group play is that it can provide social resourcing for its members. Members of an adult play therapy group effectively become playmates for each other, a recapitulation of a developmental need that can counteract the social isolation so common in adults who seek therapy. Altruism and helping behavior also increase when we feel bonded to people, which not only provides for the health of a society but also helps people feel good about themselves”(Caldwell, 2003).

My friend Tobin Quereau also writes about the potential of healing for adults through play. He and his colleague Tom Zimmerman identified blocks that adults encounter in attempting play. These include: fear of loss of control; fear of looking foolish; fear of failure; acting your age; and finally, the sense of “I don’t have time”.  As counselors, they interpret these blocks largely as the effects of growing up too soon and carrying the role of the “superchild”, one of over-responsibility at a young age. It follows that the group process could hold the potential for adults to explore their feelings of resistance to play, to face the choices that they have made (to play or not to play) and to begin to make choices that value play (Quereau & Zimmerman, 1992).

“One of the other features of adult play behavior is its capacity to facilitate embodiment. Embodiment locates us in our bodies, in the present moment. We generate and attend to sensation, and we move in ways that both nurture and challenge lungs, muscles, and bones. Our bodies in turn generate endorphins and dopamine, our internal pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters. We experience a deep immersion in the present moment, a sense of focus that feels both intense and effortless. “(Caldwell, 2003).

I was happy to run across Caldwell’s article today, which so eloquently describes the purpose of adult play in group therapy.  Below I list the goals for the current therapy group, Creative Mothers.  We are still accepting new members to the closed group.  Please contact me directly at therapist@mamababy.com or info@illysafoster.com to learn more about the group.

Goals of Group Therapy:

By engaging in play, imagination and creativity, mothers will:

  • build more resiliency to the challenges of day-to-day life
  • improve their mood
  • connect in more rewarding a playful manner with their children
  • experience the joy inherent to being a human being
  • heal trauma in the body and psyche
  • foster “mindsight “and healthy attachments with their children

Target Population for Clients:

  • currently in individual therapy or have been in therapy in the recent past
  • desire to engage with their creativity
  • open to a movement-based therapeutic model
  • a mother with at least one child over the age of 12 months

How to evoke the imagination of adults who are starved for it:

  • First, start with a game, word, or phrase to uncork their creativity.
  • Take them out of their fear (sympathetic nervous system) state through relaxation (parasympathetic nervous system).
  • Focus on process rather than product (Quereau & Zimmerman, 1992).
  • Create a sense of challenge (Quereau & Zimmerman, 1992).
  • Promote freedom (Quereau & Zimmerman, 1992).
  • Expose them to beauty (create a sense of timelessness).
  • Give them toys with which to play (promote FLOW).

How to access play through dance:

  • Provide a fantasy structure that allows for ample client-directed exploration.
  • Ignite a freedom of spirit-with humor and curiosity.
  • Give permission to indulge while avoiding evaluation.
  • Keep the focus on the experiential components.
  • Choose music that evokes the imagination, free of media-associations.
  • Keep participation voluntary (Quereau & Zimmerman, 1992)


Caldwell, C. (2003).   Play Therapy with Adults, ed. Charles Schaefer, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ

Quereau, T & Zimmerman, T. (1992). The New Game Plan for Recovery. Ballantine Books: New York, NY.

Published by

Illysa Foster

Illysa is a psychotherapist, midwife, educator, dancer and author. She currently provides psychotherapy in Austin and San Marcos, Texas to individuals, groups, couples and mother-baby dyads. Also a lecturer at Texas State University, Illysa helps students prepare to provide services for children and families. Licensed as a psychological associate under the supervision of Dr. Joellen Peters, Illysa offers somatic, depth and creative arts therapies to integrate the mind/body and soul.

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