Building a happier and healthier life

Published 1:00pm 7 March 2023

Building a happier and healthier life
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

Playing with Lego bricks is not only fun for people of all ages but also therapeutic, according to Ningi’s Janelle Ford.

As the Director and Clinical Nurse Consultant at Progressive Play, Janelle has seen firsthand how clicking and interlocking the colourful bricks to create something fun and unique can alleviate stress and provide hours of mindfulness for children and adults.

To help more people access this kind of therapy, Janelle delivers ‘out of the box’ therapeutic intervention training programs - all based around the humble LEGO brick - to health professionals, practitioners, therapists, education providers, parents, carers and other professionals in the mental health, disability, education and corporate sectors.

Since launching her business in 2021, Janelle says Progressive Play has "inadvertently" helped thousands of Australians access the therapies in their own regions, where there were no previous LEGO-based therapy interventions on offer.

Spreading the knowledge

There are now hundreds of Progressive Play certified facilitators across the nation.

“This is a welcome change for clients and participants, particularly in the adult sector as many individuals report disengaging with other available therapies due to the additional component of 'homework', and for some people, it can be a real struggle to find the motivation to get through tasks of everyday living without them doing all the extra work they need to do with other therapeutic options,” Janelle says.

“Both LEGO Based Therapy and LEGO Serious Play differ in that they are enjoyable, fun and appealing to an individual's intrinsic motivation.

"When I first came across LEGO Based Therapy and LEGO Serious Play it was not a therapeutic activity that was readily available to service users within the mental health and disability sectors, and while some services offered LEGO Based Therapy (also known as brick club) for children, there were none that were offering it within the adult sector.

Helping educators

Building a happier and healthier life

“There were also no CPD (Continuing Professional Development) accredited providers in the region who were delivering specific training for health professionals.

“The training programs we offer have been very well received nationally, with hundreds of health and allied health professionals, teachers, educators, parents and carers all accessing our training programs.

“We have also seen a recent increase in international sales from Greece, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and the United States.”

With an increase in the number of people reaching out, Janelle has launched a new course, which is targeted specifically at people who work in the education sector.

Expanding into schools

Building a happier and healthier life

“I have recently launched a new course offering in the LEGO Serious Play methodology, which has been specifically developed for teachers and educators for use within Australian schools,” Janelle explains.

“This enables teachers and educators to not only utilise LEGO Serious Play for classroom projects but also enables the implementation of a whole-school approach to the respectful relationships education framework.

“In addition to that, the program aligns perfectly with the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework.”

Janelle says she has seen significant improvements in people seeking help.

“The benefits of both children and adults accessing LEGO Based Therapy interventions are immeasurable,” Janelle says.

“There really are so many benefits for all age groups - in children it promotes critical thinking, improves and promotes social engagement, helps them to build and maintain friendships and relationships, improves their confidence and overall wellbeing, improves their sense of belonging, improves adaptability and coping skills, develops their fine motor skills and so much more.

“For adults and teens, LEGO Based Therapy interventions like LEGO Serious Play encourage social

connection, emotion conversion, cognitive development and action-taking for clients in clinical and

community practice settings.

“LEGO Serious Play brings about positive emotional and behavioural changes and promotes emotional regulation and cognitive restructuring.”

Well-deserved recognition

Janelle has been recognised for her contribution to improving mental health with a host of national awards.

Janelle won gold, silver and bronze at the Roar Awards for Start-Up of the Year, Business Growth and

Business of the Year respectively and a silver in the Emerging Ausmumpreneur of the Year for

Queensland/Northern Territory at the AusMumpreneur Awards in 2022.

“It has been an exciting journey so far. As expected with any new business there have been many challenges - the occasional IT glitch is one thing that comes to front of mind - but the first 18 months was a time of long hours and late nights,” Janelle says.

“I ate, slept and breathed the business and all it stood for 24/7 and I am so proud of where the

business is today.

“I am so proud of this achievement. I do what I do to make a positive difference in the lives of those that can benefit from undertaking the therapeutic intervention programs that I train others to deliver.

“I am extremely passionate about what I do and passionate about driving positive change for improved service delivery across the mental health and disability sector nationwide.”

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