Therapy Minimalism

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Therapy materials can make intervention easier or they can get in the way. Sometimes we don’t need as many materials as we think. In the film, “The Minimalists,” Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus describe how we can become so caught up with collecting and keeping up with other people, that we no longer appreciate what is truly important.

They describe how the hunt for the perfect item can take away from valuable relationships. When there is too much stuff, it may affect our ability to interact in meaningful ways with each other. Simplicity expert Courtney Carver shares Project 333, a minimalist wardrobe plan of cleverly combining 33 clothing items for 3 months to show you what you truly need. Minimalist wardrobes often consist of classic and versatile items of high quality that combine easily with other items.

We could consider our therapy materials from a minimalist perspective. When our shelves and cupboards are crowded with activities and games that are overly complex, inflexible and dated, we can’t easily find what we need. If you’ve ever tried to close an overstuffed drawer that wouldn’t close or spent too long looking for dice, you might understand. We can fill our spaces with so many objects, that they become cluttered. Some materials can only be used one way for one purpose. These overly prescriptive games may even reduce the creativity that can come from spontaneous and natural interactions.

We could try a minimalist approach to treatment. We could start by choosing our three favorite materials. It’s likely that these materials are enjoyable for most clients, enable us to target multiple goals and can be used in different ways. We can analyze what is special about these materials and why we like them. Maybe we don’t need another board game or another set of picture cards? Maybe we really only use a total of 33 items (or less) on a regular basis?

We can ask ourselves questions about each of our materials:

  • How many different ways can I use this item?
  • How many types of goals can be targeted with this item?
  • Is it sturdy and durable?
  • Is it overly trendy or is it timeless?
  • Is it a duplicate? Do I have two or more of the same thing?
  • Do I need a lot of other things to make it work?
  • Is this something that I don’t use much that I could borrow from someone else?
  • Is this something that the children and I could create together?

Children enjoy interacting with toys and games, but they also enjoy interacting with each other and with adults. Our clients like to spend time with us. We are considerate listeners and creative communication partners. We provide encouragement and assistance. We can use our words and actions to show we care, and not just flashy toys. Therapy isn’t about the picture cards that are on the table; it’s about the rapport and the relationship!

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About Author

Teresa Roberts, MS, CCC-SLP
Teresa Roberts, MS, CCC-SLP

Teresa Roberts, MS, CCC-SLP, works as a Speech Language Pathologist in a public school setting, provides clinical mentorship, and teaches as adjunct faculty in Portland, Oregon. She is committed to making connections between knowledge and practice.

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