It can be difficult for some children and adults to process their emotions or communicate effectively. For children, play therapy is typically used with children between the ages of 3 and 12. It helps therapists gain insight into problems and unresolved trauma. Play therapy can be administered by psychologists, psychiatrists, behavioral and occupational therapists, physical therapists, and social workers.
Play Therapy: What Is It, How it Works, and Techniques
This form of therapy is used by mental health professionals for the treatment of children who had or are currently suffering from traumatic experiences or stressful events. It is one of the most widely used therapy techniques where children can address inappropriate behaviors or anxiety disorders in a safe space.
Children have a number of challenges to face as they grow. Their emotional development is different, social development is different, and they have problems expressing themselves to adults. As they go through the therapy process, they tend to let their guard down. These therapy sessions are a chance for the play therapist to determine how the child reacts to being separated from parents when the parent is in close proximity and how they play alone. The therapist may also bring family members into the play therapy session to help resolve family issues.
Play therapy services use a variety of techniques to aid in the healthy development of the child. These techniques include:
- Arts and crafts
- Construction toys and blocks
- Dance movement
- Toy phones
- Stuffed animals
Sessions range from 30 minutes to an hour and maybe administered through a direct or non-directive approach which does not have as much structure. In the non-direct approach, the child chooses the toys and games that appeal to them the most. These sessions may not start on a positive note, but as the sessions continue, trust begins to grow between the child and therapist. As time passes, the child learns how to open up more and become more verbal or creative as they play.
How will play therapy benefit your child?
Play therapy is one of the top choices in the therapy of children. It helps children dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other situations where the child is showing acts of suppression, anger, or regression. This treatment is highly recommended for children of all ages and is a recommended practice in schools, agencies, hospitals, recreational and residential settings.
Benefits of play therapy
Children who go through play therapy learn how to take responsibility for their actions and display more positive behaviors; develop new ways to identify and solve problems; learn how to effectively express their emotions; learn new social skills for dealing with their families; develop empathy and respect while displaying acceptable behavior; development of respect and acceptance for themselves and the people they interact with.
In fact, up to 71% of children referred to play therapy experience positive changes according to Play Therapy International. Play therapy is beneficial in that it can be used with other therapies, can improve gross motor skills, and improve the way they communicate.