is a highly effective technique that involves using children’s play
interactions to resolve difficulties, encourage growth, and promote healing. Children often are unable to verbally express their feelings. Play is the child’s language and toys are the words used to express and explain a child’s world. Play therapy, conducted by a trained play therapist, offers children the opportunity to process and assess appropriate coping skills, behaviors, and world views.
Why Play Therapy?
Playing is a child’s natural way to communicate and cannot be taught. Children use play as their language to understand and explain their world. In play therapy, children feel free to join the therapist and play out their problems and express their feelings in a safe and trusted setting.
Child-Centered Play Therapy
Play therapy can be directive or non-directive in nature. I practice non-directive or child-centered play therapy (CCPT).
Child-centered play therapy is child-led. During sessions, I do not have a specific agenda, nor do I make recommendations or interrupt the child’s play. The child is given the full opportunity and attention to show me what they need to work through. I focus on the present and meet the child where they are in the moment.
Child-centered play therapy focuses on who the child is as an individual and their thoughts, feelings, and physical being rather than focusing on the problem or issue. An empathetic and judgment-free environment is provided where a child feels safe, encouraging them to show how they view themself and the world around them. As the therapist, I follow the child’s lead during play and reflect the emotions, content, and information I observe. When the child experiences a genuine warm and trusting relationship with their therapist, a stage for change is created and the child becomes confident in their ability to grow and self-heal.
Benefits of Play Therapy
Extensive research has shown play therapy to be the most effective way to connect with children therapeutically and it is successful in working with a variety of populations and their diverse struggles and issues. In short, anyone can benefit from play therapy. Common uses of play therapy are for children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, life-stressor, traumatic, and learning problems.
Play therapy helps children:
Feel understood and validated in their feelings.
Process life-stressors and events in a healthy manner.
Become more responsible for behaviors and develop successful coping strategies.
Develop new and creative problem-solving skills.
Develop respect, empathy, and acceptance of self and others.
Learn to understand, experience and express emotion appropriately.
Manage behaviors and learn self-regulating techniques.
Learn new social skills and relational skills with family and peers.
Develop self-competency and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.
Play therapy is an effective treatment for a variety of issues that parents may find their child struggling with. If your child experiences trauma associated with a life change (divorce, death, new sibling, a recent move), anxiety, moodiness, or behavioral problems, such as poor peer relations, defiance, or tantrums, play therapy can help your child resolve these issues and become the happy child you long for them to be.