Play Therapy: What Is It And How Does It Work?

If a therapist has recommended Play Therapy for your child, you may be wondering why in the world you would pay for someone to play with your kid when you could do that at home – for free! We understand your concern, so we thought we’d dedicate this post to explaining what Play Therapy is, and how it is beneficial to children.

What Is Play Therapy?

The Association for Play Therapy defines Play Therapy as “the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.”

And, now in English. Play Therapy is basically a technique used by trained professionals to help children, mostly between the ages of 3 and 12, who are suffering with a variety of emotional or behavioral problems. Play therapists use a variety of props, (toys), to help children express their emotions and find healthy ways to solve problems. Some of the more commonly used toys include: sandboxes, small figurines representing people or animals, dolls, dollhouses, art supplies, cars, and games that encourage dressing-up or using the imagination in some way.

The job of the play therapist is simple, but not necessarily easy. He or she needs to provide a safe environment where children can feel free to express themselves through play. The idea is that it’s easier for kids to act out their emotions than to express them verbally, so this type of therapy encourages children to do what comes naturally for them.

It’s then up to the therapist to help the child understand the emotions that he is non-verbally expressing, so that the processing can begin.

How Is Play Therapy Effective?

One of the great things about Play Therapy is that it offers a great deal of flexibility, so that it may be tailored to each child. For example, if a child tends to be a follower at school, the therapist may encourage the child to come up with his own rules for a game, to help him build confidence in his own ideas. Conversely, if a child has trouble listening, or following rules, the therapist may help the child work on that by offering rewards and praise when she abides by the pre-set rules of the game.

Play Therapy is particularly helpful at giving children an outlet to express their feelings, when words wouldn’t suffice. For example, if a child has been through a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent, the child might begin to work through his feelings of grief by pretending that a toy parent dies. Alternatively, they might find empowerment by pretending that they were able to save the toy parent from death. Whatever scenario they reenact, the play therapist will use that to help the child come to terms with their feelings, and find healthy ways to express them.

If you’d like to learn more about whether Play Therapy is right for your child, contact us. We are here to help!

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