The Art of Listening podcast

Freedom to Explore: the Magic of Play in the Therapeutic Setting, with Sarah Abel

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The children we once were will always stay with us. And when we drift back to treasured moments from childhood, we find that our play was a great source of growth. Games, toys, and play-pretends helped us explore the world; they taught us how to interact with others and express our ideas for the first time. In fact, playing was integral to our personal development. So why did we ever give it up? And what happens when we continue to play, as adults? Our guest Sarah Abel has dedicated her career to these questions.  

Sarah is a “reluctant adult”, a former teacher and social worker, who now works as a psychotherapist. She has spent 20 years in private practice, working with a range of patients, including children and adults. Her focus has always been to explore the dynamics of childhood development and recognize the value of play within our lives and within the therapeutic setting.

On this episode of the Art of Listening, Sarah Abel takes us on a nostalgic journey back to our childhoods. Together, we reflect on the significance of play, exploring how it shapes our understanding of the world. We discuss how our bonds with our family define how we go on to interact with the world. And we delve into the power of play to reshape who we are and express ourselves in new ways, finding that in the psychoanalytic environment, play can knock down barriers between patient and therapist, and facilitate growth.

Join us in conversation today, as we reconnect with our child-like curiosity and wonder, and learn (or re-learn) to play at every stage of life.


1 - Stories from Sarah's early teaching and social work experiences (7:24)

2 - The use of play in the psychoanalytic setting (15:06)
3 - The role of family and parents in childhood development (18:41)
4 - Attachment Patterns, and the lifelong effects of childhood (25:21)
5 - What Sarah has learned from play and her work with children (31:12)


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