What is Play Therapy
When treating children, one cannot employ the same methods as with treating adults. It simply doesn’t work to have a child sit down (or lay down) on a couch and expect them to insightfully and eloquently verbalize all of their problems. Play is the language of children. It is how they communicate as well as make sense of the world. It is also the way in which children work out problems in their lives. Often times after a traumatic event you will see a child trying to recreate the event through play. We even see children recreating every day arguments that they hear between their parents using dolls or stuffed animals. This is a healthy and normal coping mechanism designed to bring us through and move past difficult situations. The trouble is when children become stuck and can no longer move forward on their own. They need someone to help them along through their play.
Therapeutic play is a well established treatment modality based upon a number of psychological theories. Both qualitative and quantitative research have shown that play therapy is highly effective with many children and a variety of mental health needs. I encourage you to read this page from the Association for Play Therapy for more information.
How I use Play Therapy
As a Play Therapist, this method is a regular part of my treatment of children. I use a variety of different interventions that are based on pacing with the client and the client’s needs. I may use art, puppets, stuffed animals or other toys to facilitate working through the child’s difficulties as well as to help them better express themselves. I try to involve parents in the process as much as possible and along with regular meetings may give you instruction on how to use play in a therapeutic way to help your children. There are also times when it will be more beneficial to work individually with your child in an atmosphere separated from the influence of family dynamics.