What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is to children what talk therapy is to adults. Play therapy utilizes play, children’s natural medium of communication, to help them express their feelings more easily in a way that makes sense to them. Play is a child’s language and toys are the child’s words. Though children lack the cognitive skills to express themselves with words, they are fluent in the language of play. Play therapy allows them to express themselves in the way in which they are most comfortable.
Why Play Therapy?
Play therapy is a way of being with the child that honors their unique developmental level and looks for ways of helping in the “language” of the child – play. Counselors and therapists therapeutically use play to help their clients, most often children ages 3 to 10 years, to better express themselves and resolve their problems.
Children develop skills as they mature. Sometimes experiences inhibit the development of basic life skills or create maladaptive responses. Play Therapy can help children relearn and improve their social skills including how to: improve responsible behavior, problem solve, improve self respect, express emotion, and cultivate empathy.
Research attests Play Therapy is an effective mental health treatment approach, regardless of age, gender, or the nature of the problem, and works best when a parent, family member, or caretaker is actively involved in the treatment process. Play Therapy has empirical evidence supporting improvement of : behavior problems, anger management, grief/loss, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and more.
Twelve sessions seems to be the minimum number of sessions for effecting significant and lasting improvement. Sometimes, children and families can make progress in a shorter time frame if they have already worked with the therapist previously.
Play therapy involves the whole family in the child’s healing process. Research has shown that children gained the most from play therapy when a parent actively participated in the child’s treatment. Play therapy is designed so that the child and parents/caregivers participate in the exercises during the therapy appointment and can also bring what they learned home and practice it there. Whole family therapy provides a way for children to learn how to modify their interactions with their parents and siblings. In so doing, the entire household improves.