Expressive Therapies (sand, play, art, drama, yoga)

Expressive Therapies

Injured children have conflicting drives to master difficult  experiences and to avoid them in a protective fashion.  Our job is to encourage  mastery while recognizing the value of necessary defenses.”  - Eliana Gil

Dr. Lenore Terr first documented a unique type of play in which children re-enact traumatic experiences repeatedly in a robotic and joyless way. Although Terr found that this type of play appeared secretive and thus would not be observed in therapy offices, more and more clinicians have witnessed and documented post-trauma play emerging naturally in therapy.

When children utilize post-trauma play, they play out their fears and anxieties, and they face them more directly, but still at a safe-enough distance. By gradually exposing themselves and facing tolerable amounts of distress, children can arrive at a new way of understanding of their experiences.

Those working with traumatized children have found that children seem to be compelled to use play, art, sand, and puppet therapies with frequency to show and process their traumas through post-traumatic play—children’s natural way of achieving gradual exposure. Through post-trauma play, children access options and resources and benefit greatly from creating solutions and identifying resources. In that way, post-trauma play provides a goal of mastery to children and thus provides a sense of reparation.


Gil Institute clinicians recognize the hardships of developmental stressors that often seem to temporarily overwhelm a person’s ability to cope. We also understand that early injuries can impair a person’s social, behavioral, and emotional functioning in a myriad of ways.  

We believe that individuals have natural reparative strategies that allow them to overcome tremendous adversities and still find creative ways to self-soothe and move forward. In our approach with children, we believe that children’s developmental age, their gender and culture, as well as their family context, will all play a part in how their stressors are experienced and processed.  For this reason, all Gil      Institute services are family-focused and clinical collaboration with a client’s other sources of support are actively maintained, including cooperative approaches with parents, professionals, and/or school personnel, when clinically appropriate.  

The primary goal of trauma work is to facilitate a process of re-establishing personal power and control, defusing and mediating traumatic impact over time so the experience(s) are viewed as an event, not as a definition of self.


Read Dr. Eliana Gil's "Sandplay" Interview with Dr. Rosalind Heiko, Ph.D., ISST, CST-T




Based on current research and practice, kid’s yoga improves self-esteem and self-awareness. High self-esteem leads to healthy and secure relationships and reduces the likelihood of depression or other mental health conditions. Gil Institute offers a Kid's Yoga group that provides a fun and calming environment where children can learn to use pranayama (breath), asana (physical movement/flow), and meditation to increase their self-esteem, decrease their stress, and better regulate their physical bodies. By integrating yoga practice and philosophy in the group process, children can improve concentration, learn relaxation, and practice creating and respecting boundaries in a noncompetitive setting. In this way, kid’s yoga improves skill development, muscular strength/flexibility, and promotes healthy lifestyles.