Updated: Mar 10, 2022
I often get asked just how effective Play Therapy is by parents. Over the course of my career of working with children, I see first-hand how children are often unable to verbalize what they are experiencing and the strong emotions that they have in the same way that they can express themselves through play.
Becoming a trained Play Therapist has taught me how to "speak their language", the language of play and it has given me access into a child’s world, one which is often left silent. I explain to parents that "the play" serves only as a bridge to therapy. I often stress that play therapy is not about having some toys in a therapy room or encouraging children to draw or play with blocks as they talk with a counselor or psychologist.
In the video below, I share an example of a case I had, how in practice Play Therapy works.
What exactly is Play Therapy and How does it help my child?
Play Therapy begins by helping children express their feelings and assume responsibility for all of their behaviours. It also teaches them how to develop their problem-solving skills. As parents, it is important to remember that Play therapists are trained mental health practitioners specializing in helping young children. As a therapist, I work with parents to develop goals before starting therapy as it allows us to assess change and monitor behavioural outcomes.
Parents often wonder how I will address these goals in the playroom. When I have a young child deemed "out of control" at home and/or at school, I start by building 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. As in the video, we gain insight into understanding the underlying issues that cause undesirable behaviours in the first place.
As you do your own research on Play Therapy you will find that there are no predetermined interventions during the play therapy sessions that seek to change the child's behaviour. Instead, what we do as play therapists is consistently offer a safe relationship and an environment in which your child is free to be self-directive. I mainly focus on the relationship I have with your child rather than the initial problem as this allows your child to tell me through "play" the anxieties, fears, or other complex emotions that are feeling or experiencing.
This is why Play therapy fills a wide gap in therapy services for young children. It is effective with tangible results that have allowed children to make massive strides in their emotional and behavioural development.