What Is Play Therapy?
If you have found your way to this site you have probably been directed here by a Play Therapist or by your search for help for a child.
Your search has led you to the most effective therapeutic intervention for children — Play Therapy.
Though primarily used with children, it can also be used with adolescents and even adults though it is often more difficult to get adults to participate in play therapy.
Play therapy is a form of mental health counseling used to assist children, adolescents and adults in processing through life events and increasing emotional health. It is creative and fun.
Play therapy may utilize many different things including art, music, sand, toys, and water to provide a non-threatening environment to address life stressors. Using play, which is a very natural act for children, allows a child to take charge of their world in a way that they cannot do in real life.
Play Therapy Helps Children Communicate
Through play a child can communicate thoughts and feelings that may be too difficult to express any other way.
The reason might be because developmentally the child is too young to verbally express their thoughts. Or because speaking about their inner most thoughts and feelings would be too overwhelming.
Play reduces their anxiety and the difficulty of figuring out how to put into words what is going on internally. They simply play out their thoughts and feelings in a safe accepting environment.
One of the leading authorities in play therapy is Dr. Garry Landreth.
In his book Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship (2nd edition), he describes play therapy in an elaborate but informative way.
“I have experienced play therapy to be a dynamic approach to counseling with children that allows the therapist to fully experience the child’s world … to receive the delicate and subtle messages communicated by the child, which declare the uniqueness of the child’s personality. The process of play is viewed as the child’s effort to gain control in the environment. The problems children experience do not exist apart from the person they are. Therefore, play therapy matches the dynamic inner structure of the child with an equally dynamic approach.”
Play Therapy Promotes Learning & Self Discovery
Through play children learn about their world.
They learn various social skills by engaging in play with others. They express themselves emotionally, mentally and physically all with their play. It is the natural language of children and it has been said the items they choose to play with and how they play are their words.
Playing is a developmental task that helps children grow in a healthy fashion emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally and socially. It is a natural assumption that play will reflect the external and internal life of a child.
If you have ever watched children play you can see many dynamics taking place including the expression of their personalities. A lot can be learned by watching children play and inevitably children will play out events in their own lives.
If we understand a child’s play, we can understand the child.
So play may seem an odd way to help a child through their difficulties, but it is a comfortable process for children and it is extremely effective in helping children heal and grow in a healthy way.