Kids & Teens
The act of playing is inherent in humans throughout the life cycle. We see it across the lifespan and in many animals as well. Play is a child’s language and toys are their words.
Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. When adults have problems, it often helps for them to share their thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or therapist. Children do not have the ability to express themselves with words in the same way adults do, so it is difficult for them to verbalize what is troubling them. Play therapy allows children to communicate through play (their most natural form of expression) their thoughts and feelings, and their needs and desires. With the help of a trained Play Therapist, children can learn to understand themselves and their world better, work to resolve their problems, and develop coping skills to better deal with life.
Play therapy differs from typical everyday play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own struggles through their unique “language”. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them. Using this modality, 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.
What can I expect as a parent?
Play therapy is a process of the therapist building a trusting relationship with a child, the child revealing and/or working through his/her problems, coming to a resolution, practicing new skills, and then preparing for termination. Behavior and mood changes are normal and expected throughout the process of play therapy. At times, it may seem as though things are getting worse and not better. This can be expected and is very normal. Additionally, in play therapy, the therapist will not “pump” the child for information about their life or any traumatic incident. Children are allowed to work through their problems at their own pace. There is much more freedom in the play therapy room than is allowed in other areas of the child’s life. During the therapy session, every thought, feeling and almost all behaviors of the child are accepted. The freedom that is allowed in the playroom is necessary so that the child feels accepted, safe and trusting enough to reveal, and work through their fears and problems. In the play therapy setting, typical behaviors for which limits are set are ones which may cause harm to the child, the therapist, or the playroom toys and equipment. Limits are important in that they help the child feel safe and secure in his/her environment. Limit setting, along with appropriate choice giving, also helps the child learn self-control, and increases the child’s self esteem.
Some examples of play therapy:
Every play therapist’s playroom has a family house with a set of “dolls” or figures so a child can act out the family dynamics they experience at home. Puppets are also a common method of using play to tell a story about their inner world. Many play therapists also employ the use of slime or other sensory play activities to increase distress tolerance or teach mindfulness. If it’s fun, we’ve got it!