Children often have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, which can result in behavioral issues and negative thinking patterns. Play therapy provides children with the opportunity to express themselves through a language that is more recognizable to them -- play. With the aid of a play therapist, children can learn skills and tools to better understand and express their thoughts and emotions and can positively impact development.
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is an approach that provides a child with familiar resources to help process and cope with life difficulties. Play therapy is not limited to children, however, research suggests that it is positively effective for children under the age of 12. Sessions typically last from 30-45 minutes of play, and the therapists use a combination of directive and non-directive techniques to facilitate a play-therapy session. Directive play therapy encourages the play therapist to have a greater input and role in the session through activity and play, while in a non-directive approach, therapists offer less instruction and encourage the child to play with the intention that they resolve their own issues.
Therapists tend to be more directive in sessions for a number of reasons including, limited time in sessions; when a child is developmentally unable to engage in activities; and when a crisis needs immediate intervention. In a play-therapy session, a therapist makes a special effort in creating a comfortable and safe environment in which the child can engage with toys in a room, most commonly referred to as a playroom. The playroom is designed with toys that are specifically chosen to help children express their emotions and thoughts. As previously mentioned, children can have a difficult time expressing themselves through words, but play therapy encourages children to reflect, process, and problem solve through play.
Play therapy has been seen as effective in children who suffer from a wide range of issues including:
- Resolving and processing trauma
- Exploring emotions and thoughts
- Problem solving
- Addressing grief and loss
- Developmental issues
How Can It Help my Child?
Play therapy is unique in that it allows a child to engage with toys and crafts without limitations, other than guidelines that are enforced to protect the child’s physical and emotional safety. Through play therapy, a child is encouraged to use play and creativity to process through life events. Therapists work towards building trust with the child to guide them in sessions, allowing the child to have an opportunity to resolve problems. In play- therapy sessions, a therapist’s role is to work collaboratively with the child to encourage positive growth.
Therapists will often utilize common skills and techniques to help children in a more directive approach to play therapy. For example, research suggests that specific games can help children become more aware of their emotions and learn appropriate ways to express their feelings. Similarly, other techniques are catered to helping impulse control and increasing concentration on a task. Relaxation techniques are also helpful in providing children with skills to help control emotional reactions and find balance. Skills that are acquired in play therapy can be utilized in a wide range of issues and can produce lasting results.
If you feel your child may benefit from play therapy, please contact Clarity Clinic to learn more about our pediatric therapists and play-therapy interventions.
Hall, M. T., Kaduson, G.H., Schaefer, E.C. (2002) Fifteen Effective Play Therapy Techniques. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.