What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach to therapy that builds on the normal communicative and learning processes of children. The curative powers inherent in play are used in many ways. Therapists strategically utilize play therapy to help children express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings. In play therapy, toys are like the child’s words and play is the child’s language. Play therapy is a well established discipline based upon a number of psychological theories. Research, both qualitative and quantitative shows that it is highly effective in many cases. Recent research by PTUK, an organization affiliated to Play Therapy International, suggests that 71% of the children referred to play therapy will show a positive change.
Who Comes to Play Therapy?
Children are referred for play therapy to resolve their problems which can include behavioral problems such as acting out at school or in the home, emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety, or OCD, or poor social skills. Children also are referred to come in to work through family issues such as divorce, death, loss and abandonment issues.
Why Play in Therapy?
- Help children learn more adaptive behaviors.
- Provides a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing
- Promote cognitive development
- Provide insight about and resolution of inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking in the child
- Heal from trauma, loss, and/or grief experiences
How does play therapy work?
A safe, confidential and caring environment is created between the therapist and child, which allows the child to play with as few limits as possible but as many as necessary (for physical and emotional safety). This allows healing to occur on many levels. Play and creativity operate on impulses from outside our awareness – the unconscious. Play Therapy provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to the child’s development.The therapist may reflect back to the child observations of what has happened during the session if this is felt to be appropriate. Above all the child is given “Special Time” where they are the focus of attention and where they can begin to learn how to feel and express feelings in a healthy manner. The child is given strategies to cope with difficulties they face in life and which they themselves cannot change. It provides a more positive view of their future life.
- communicate with others
- express feelings
- modify behavior
- develop problem-solving skills
- learn a variety of ways of relating to others.
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