What is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is a therapeutic modality designed for children, that involves letting them express themselves and learn new skills through play. As children may not be able to adequately express themselves verbally, the act of play helps children to convey the difficulties they are experiencing in a developmentally appropriate way. Often children will draw or act out the problems that mirror what they are struggling with internally. Through careful observation and collaboration with parents, Play Therapists can help children to overcome a wide variety of emotional or behavioural problems. For example, Play Therapy can be helpful for kids struggling with anxiety, aggression, trauma, depression, intense emotions, family conflicts, social problems, self-esteem, etc.
Play Therapy environments can include various types of toys, dolls, or art supplies aimed at having kids express themselves, in a safe context. The environment may be unstructured so that the child can freely make choices, or more structured, to help facilitate the process in a desired direction.
How does Play Therapy work?
Typically, the first few sessions involve meeting with the parents or the parents and child together. These sessions allow the therapist to gather information about the difficulties that the child may be facing, as well as any environmental factors that may be impacting the child. The child’s strengths and interests may also be discussed, so that the therapist can gain a more complete understanding of the whole child.
Subsequent sessions involve creating an environment where the child can use toys or art supplies to express themselves while the therapist observes and interacts. This provides the therapist with an opportunity to view the child interacting naturally with their environment, which can highlight potential conflicts, and provide an opportunity to teach the child new skills. Collaboration with parents can teach parents skills to continue using at home, so that therapeutic gains can continue outside of the therapy room.
How can Play Therapy help my child?
Play therapy can help children to…
- Express themselves in a safe environment
- Feel better understood by parents, siblings, teachers, and friends
- Boost their self-esteem
- Learn new behaviours
- Learn problem-solving skills
- Learn more effective ways to express difficult emotions
- Stop behaviours that are dangerous or inappropriate
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc.