Play therapy, though many parents may initially think it is for younger children only is actually right in the comfort zone and developmental stage for a teen.
If you think about it, it has all the elements that make sense to a teen. It is therapy that is non-confrontational and non-threatening and allows for freedom of expression. The most helpful aspect is the hands-on experience throughout sessions, allowing your teen to transfer learned strategies to home and school.
As a parent, you probably can appreciate how difficult it can be for your teen to open up – if you ask, “How was your day?” or “Is something wrong?” you will often be met with a shrug or a dejected, “I don’t know.” or simply "nothing". Getting teenagers to open up is a lot of hard work! From their perspective, talking about their problems is scary, confusing, or embarrassing. A lot of teens absolutely hate the idea of talking to adults, and this may leave them feeling like therapy may not be the best way to help.
Play Therapy uses a plethora of activities, games, and art, where your teen will be able to tap into the emotional side of their brains, creating more effective, long-lasting change. Being in an environment that allows indirect exploration of what’s bothering them, and how their day was, is an opportunity that teens may not have in other settings to navigate their thoughts and feelings, something that is tough to do with just words sometimes.
Moving past traditional talk therapy and into creative counseling can be a tremendous help for teens. When we hear the word “therapy” we often picture someone laying on a couch, and a therapist sitting next to or behind them, asking questions and waiting for them to talk. But in reality, therapy goes beyond conversation, regardless of age. Using different treatment approaches to meet you where you’re at is our number one goal, and many of the treatment options available today are going to incorporate more than “just talking.” Although play therapy may not be something you’d think of for anyone over the age of 12 up to 16 years old, it is a tried and true method with lasting benefits for teens who come to therapy.
Adolescence is a difficult time, and we’re all probably confused at one point on how “adult” to treat a teen, and how “childlike” to treat a teen. But teens are their own people, and they’re at their own unique developmental stage that must be recognized to create real progress and lead to healthy life skills.