“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation
” – Plato
What is Play Therapy?
When an adult encounters a challenging situation, we often analyse it, think about it from different angles, talk to others we trust and get advice. But children are different. When they encounter a tough problem, they don’t always have the ability problem solve let alone, communicate what’s going on to someone they trust. That’s where Play Therapy comes in. Play Therapy is a developmentally sensitive model that acknowledges that children naturally communicate through the language of play and many children do not developmentally have the cognitive ability to express themselves in words. That’s where play therapy come in: it creates a safe atmosphere where children can express themselves through play, experientially “play” out new roles, learn social skills, and work through their problems. Play Therapy gives children expressive freedom and an opportunity to learn to solve problems, explore different ways of reacting and change maladaptive behaviors.
Does my child need Play Therapy?
Throughout their lives, most children go through difficult time: a stressful event, trouble making friends, or adjusting to changes at school or home. Some children need more help than others to get through these times. If you or other adults in your child’s life are concerned about your child’s behavior, Play Therapy can help. It gives children an outlet to express themselves through a safe medium of play and is the most appropriate treatment for helping your child work through difficult times. In addition, by speaking with the play therapist in parent consultations, you will gain a better understanding of what your child is going through.
What type of child benefits from Play Therapy?
Play Therapy can be a successful medium for many children. Children that benefit from this approach are children that struggle with trust or opening up to adults and/or other children appear withdrawn or introverted. Play Therapy can also be a successful medium for the more reactive, attention seeking and aggressive child. Play Therapy is also a good fit for children with language challenges such as learning disability or selective mutism because a play therapist knows that children can communicate their feelings without talking about it, and instead by playing in a particular way.
What is it like in the playroom?
The playroom provides a child-friendly environment equipped with an extensive range of therapeutic toys and art supplies. These toys are carefully selected to allow your child to play out themes of real life, safely express their feelings and allow creative expression.
What happens in a Play Therapy session?
Play Therapy sessions last about 45—55 minutes. The child is invited into the playroom and invited to play with the toys in a variety of ways as he/she wishes. As needed, limits are set. This is done in a way that allows for balancing expressive freedom within safety and limitations. Ultimately, this helps children make choices and develop self-responsibility.
In a typical Play Therapy session, the Play Therapist reflects how your child is engaging with toys and the underlying emotions that seem to accompany the actions rather than asking questions.
How do I prepare my child for their first Play Therapy session?
Tell your child that they are going to play with a person called Rosie in a special playroom with lots of toys each week. You might also add, “when things are hard for you at home (and/or school), sometimes it helps to have a special place to play.”
As a parent, what should I expect from the Play Therapy process?
For the first few sessions, your child may request that you accompany your child into the playroom, until the child is comfortable staying alone with the play therapist. The Play Therapist will state, “it seems like you’re feeling comfortable in here now, so your parent will go and wait for you on the couch until we are finished. Please avoid giving excuses for leaving, simply stand and say that you will be in the waiting room until the play session is done.
During therapy your child’s behavior may appear to get worse before it improves. This is normal, as it is common for the child to go through a period of sorting through intense feelings in Play Therapy.
Your Play Therapist will have parent consultation meetings after every 3rd – 5th Play Therapy sessions, or clinically indicated. Your therapist will share generally themes that I notice in your child’s play as opposed to specific things said or done. This helps maintain your child’s trust in me and in the therapeutic process.
Your Play Therapist will also provide you with parenting strategies that will help build upon the individual work with your child.
What’s the difference between Play Therapy and playing with my child at home?
Play Therapy is not the same as playing. Play Therapy uses your child’s natural tendency to “play out” their feelings, worries and life situations in the presence of a specially trained Play Therapist. The Play Therapist helps the child to feel accepted, understood and gain a sense of control or understanding about difficult feelings or situations.
How does Play Therapy work?
Recent brain research has told us that the brain has “plasticity” which means it continues to mold and grow based on experience. Of course, personality and temperament are somewhat determined by genes, but the primary agent of change within the brain is through experience.
That’s why Play Therapy works! It works at an experiential level, giving children the opportunity to play out real-life situations in the context (and safety) of the play in order to gain understanding about themselves and the world around them.
Check out articles that explain the research behind the efficacy of Play Therapy by clicking here.
How long does a child receive Play Therapy?
The length of time a child is seen in Play Therapy varies from child to child. The research shows that a minimum of 20 sessions is recommended, with most long term changes occurring at closer to 40 sessions. Though some children show significant change and progress before 20 sessions. It depends upon the child’s personality, the intensity of the presenting problems and implementation of other environmental supports (for example, suggestions that parents receive in parent consultations to help support progress). The therapeutic progress will be discussed during parenting sessions, usually suggested every 3-5 weeks, or as clinically indicated.