Many of our therapists frequently use play therapy when working with clients who are age 10 and under. Play therapy can be an effective way to help children who are experiencing difficulty in some area of their lives. It works for children in the same way that counseling or therapy works for adults. Play looks very simple, but in fact is quite complex. In play therapy, children use play as a way to work through their emotional struggles, behavioral difficulties, and family problems.
During play therapy, a trusting relationship develops between the child and his/her therapist. The establishment of this type of relationship is important because it creates a safe place for the child, while also providing a door for the therapist into their world through play. This process is directed by the child and happens at their own pace.
Play therapy sessions are usually held in a playroom that has a variety of carefully selected toys and materials. In the playroom, the child can express feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors through play. The child selects the toys and activities to play with and the play therapist may join in the play upon the child’s invitation. The toys that the child selects to use are used like words and become the child’s natural language to act out feelings, thoughts, and experiences.
The length of play therapy varies from child to child. It is possible for symptoms of children to be alleviated with just a few sessions of play therapy, but it is important to note that this is not always the case. If a child is working through significant issues, it will take more time and patience for play therapy to reach its full effect.
Research has found play therapy to be an effective therapeutic approach for a variety of children’s difficulties including: • Adjusting to family changes such as separation • Making friends • Excessive anger, fear, sadness, worry and shyness • Aggression and acting out • School difficulties • ADD and ADHD • Abuse and neglect • Social adjustment issues • Sleeping and eating difficulties • Self concept and self esteem • Trauma • Grief and loss • Chronic illness/hospitalization • Physical symptoms without medical cause • Bonding and Attachment issues • Foster, adoption and identity issues • Prenatal and Birth Trauma • Selective Mutism