As a Registered Play Therapist, I am trained in the use of play therapist for working with Children and their Family's. So what is Play Therapy, The Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as "...the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
Play therapy is an opportunity for children to explore and learn coping skills to address their difficulties in an accepting environment with age/developmentally appropriate toys and interventions. Play therapy is intended to help children with a wide range of social, emotional, and behavioral problems including Autism, ADHD, and more. These can include adjustment to trauma or major life changes, hyperactivity and attention disorders, anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and social skills. The techniques in therapy will vary, depending on the age of the child, there is no age limitation for those who can benefit from play therapy.
The therapist has the unique opportunity to bond with the child by accepting the child as they are and offering the child the opportunity to play out coping skills for their difficulties in an environment that does not judge or punish for that exploration. Blame is never assigned in sessions as the purpose of the session is for the child to learn to cope with the difficulty they are experiencing.
For children to be most successful in play therapy:
- allow the child to keep session details private
- don't offer praise or criticism about attending sessions or items that are brought home from sessions
- share any new or changing behaviors with the therapist
- schedule a consistent and reoccurring appointment no matter what the child's behavior has been like that week
- allow them to wear old clothes, as children have the opportunity to choose to use paints and other art supplies, while we try to use color safe items it is better to be safe than sorry
- please don't expect the therapist to give you details about what the child said or is doing in session, but do expect the therapist to share ways to further their growth at home
Play therapy is effective for children because they don't have an appropriate vocabulary to express their emotions or thoughts but they do know how to use play to explore options for dealing with the difficulties.