Updated: Apr 30, 2022
Play therapy is a long-standing alternative therapy treatment option for children and the
consensus among child psychiatrists and psychologist is that playtime can often be used to help children learn, reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem. This is because children can express themselves without needing to talk.
The play serves only as a bridge to therapy. Play therapists often stress that simply having some toys in a therapy office or encouraging children to draw or play with blocks as they talk with a counsellor or psychologist is not play therapy. Children are doing real work in the play therapy room.
It begins by helping children express their feelings and assume responsibility for all of their behaviours. It teaches them how to develop problem-solving skills. It is important to remember that Play therapists are trained mental health practitioners specializing in helping young children. One of the questions I ask parents is, "How will you know when your child has changed and no longer has this problem?" The reason I do this is to establish a benchmark for change. It is essential for me as a therapist to develop goals with parents before starting therapy as it allows us to assess change and monitor behavioural outcomes.
Parents often wonder how we will address these goals in the playroom. When I have a young child deemed "out of control" at home and school, I build a relationship with the child. During the session, the child will learn to assume responsibility for his/her decisions and will have opportunities to demonstrate self-control if setting limits is necessary for the play therapy session. In this way, parents begin to recognize that what occurs in the nondirective playroom becomes helpful in addressing issues arising at home and school. In the example above, goals were established that specified how many days each week the child would comply with their mother's requests, not have a tantrum at home, and not hit themselves.
Your child will learn
Empathy and respect for feelings of others
to regulate their own emotions, and manage their reactions
increase problem-solving abilities
form connections with people
increase their ability to express themselves
increase their knowledge of their self
There are no predetermined interventions during the play therapy sessions that seek to change the child's behaviour. Instead, play therapists consistently offer a safe relationship and an environment in which the child is free to be self-directive. Child-centered play therapists continually reflect upon their way of being in clinical supervision to address the issue of inadvertently directing the child's behaviour. Play therapist mainly focuses on the relationship they have with the child rather than the initial problem. Thus, we face unique challenges in helping parents understand how this theoretical approach supports children in meeting their goals.
This is why Play therapy continues to fill the gap in therapy services for young children. It is effective with tangible results that have allowed children to make massive strides in their social, emotional, and behavioural development.