Play is a child’s language
What is play therapy?
Defined by the Association for Play Therapy, play therapy “differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them. Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.”
Benefits of Play Therapy
According to Play Therapy International, up to 71 percent of children referred to play therapy may experience positive change. While some children might start off with some hesitation, trust in the therapist tends to grow. As they become more comfortable and their bond strengthens, the child may become more creative or more verbal in their play. Some of the potential benefits of play therapy are; taking more responsibility for certain behaviors, developing coping strategies and creative problem-solving skills, self-respect, empathy and respect for others, learning to fully experience and express feelings, stronger social skills, stronger family relationships, and more.
How Does Play Therapy Work?
Children are referred for play therapy to resolve their problems. Often, children have used up their own problem-solving tools, and they misbehave, may act out at home, with friends, and at school. Play therapy is utilized to help children cope with difficult emotions and find solutions to problems. By confronting problems in a Play Therapy setting, children find healthier solutions. Play therapy allows children to change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve their concerns. Even the most troubling problems can be confronted in play therapy and lasting resolutions can be discovered, rehearsed, mastered, and adapted into lifelong strategies.
Play Therapy Techniques
Play therapy can be directive or non directive. In the directive approach, the therapist will take the lead by specifying the toys or games that’ll be used in the session. The therapist will guide the play with a specific goal in mind. Sessions must take place in an environment where the child feels safe and where there are few limitations. The therapist may use techniques that involve: creative visualization, storytelling, role-playing, toy phones, puppets, stuffed animals, masks, dolls, action figures, arts and crafts, water and sand play, blocks and construction toys, dance, and creative movement, musical play, and more.
Mary might offer the child a dollhouse and some dolls, asking them to act out some problems they have at home. Or they might encourage the child to use hand puppets to recreate something they found stressful or frightening.
It could be as simple as asking questions while your child is drawing or painting to try to gain insights into their thought process. Or play various games with the child to encourage problem-solving, cooperation, and social skills.