What is Child Life anyways?

Typical dialogue:

“So what is a Child Life Specialist? Is that like a therapist?” 

“Sort of…but not really. They don’t necessarily provide therapy in the traditional sense that most people think of…mostly play therapy.” 

“Play therapy? So like you just play toys with kids?” 

“In a sense, but with kids who are sick or injured and are possibly new in experiencing the hospital environment. A Child Life Specialist provides comfort and support to make sure that the patient and their families are comfortable and familiar with everything around them. They make sure that whatever a child is scared of or doesn’t understand, is explained to them in an age appropriate way in hopes that their fear and anxiety is reduced.” 

So, that was a pretty good description if you ask me…keep in mind, I was able to sit and think about it before typing it. I always find it hard to explain what Child Life is to people. Whenever I think of Child Life, I feel as though I revert back to a child in the hospital – back to 2001 Alexx – and all I can think is, “Child Life is awesome! They have all these crafts and toys and you can do surgery on the dolls and play video games…!”…obviously not the response that adults are looking for when they inquire about the field! So I always find myself taking a step back, and really having to think about what it is. Clearly, the goals of Child Life – letting kids be kids and reducing fear and anxiety in the hospital – were met in my scenario since I’m so enthusiastic when people ask me what it involves. I only hold fond memories of my interactions with my Child Life Specialists, even if they were sent to me to help me cope with something so terrifying.

According to the Child Life Council, CLS’s are “trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events”. But of course, if you ask the kid in me, they’re more than that; to 8-year-old Alexx, a Child Life Specialist is a friend, confidant, and hero.

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