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 a form of treatment method that helps children deal with their emotional and mental issues. Since it might be hard for kids to express and understand their emotions, therapists use playtime activities in a free and comfortable environment to get a sense of what is troubling them. Children use games and play to express themselves, therefore, therapists take advantage of this fact to understand a child’s trauma, emotions, and coping mechanisms and help them navigate through life. Even the most troubling problems can be confronted in play therapy and lasting resolutions can be discovered, rehearsed, mastered, and adapted into lifelong strategies (Russ, 2004). This therapy can be used on anyone although kids aged between 3 to 12 are more likely to experience this form of therapy.
There are two types of play therapy:
The most common misconception is that play therapy isn’t “real” therapy. Ashley Wroton, a licensed professional counselor (LPC), says “Play therapy is real therapy,” “Play is the medium through which the therapy occurs.… The play helps them open up to make better connections.”
Children simply don’t have the language skills to express themselves also there’s a high chance that adults might misinterpret them. With play therapy, the therapist will allow the child to slowly open up and share his/her feelings. This method prevents the child from feeling pressured and therapists can observe their behavior and set some therapeutic goals for them. The way that this therapy is conducted depends on each situation some kids might be comfortable enough to play independently while some might find it hard. Wroton explains that she starts the sessions by asking the parents what seems to be the problem. After a thorough assessment, she watches the child play on his/her own. She might even ask the caretakers or parents to play together to observe the child at play and their interactions with each other. Afterward, she tells the parents what she has noticed. Surprisingly, there is a lot of information one can observe from a normal play therapy session such as attachment issues, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and past traumas. Wroton believes, specialists need to watch from session to session to see if clients’ play behaviors change at all and whether they can see progress or not.
Each child is different, so therapists might take special approaches according to their needs. Sessions normally last for half an hour but it depends on each client. Play sessions might take place in groups or individually. What matters the most is that children can be comfortable and interact with their surroundings with their guards down.
According to Healthline, the therapist may use techniques that involve:
According to the Association for Play Therapy, this method can help children become more responsible for behaviors and develop coping strategies, develop respect and acceptance of self and others, Learn to experience and express emotion, learn new social skills and gain empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others. The professional organization Play Therapy International stated that nearly 71 percent of the children who experienced play therapy had positive feedback. Play therapy can help children who are struggling with:
What’s the takeaway?
The act of playing can help individuals relax and explore their emotions. Play therapy isn’t just for kids. Adults who have disabilities, dementia, anger management issues, and unresolved trauma can benefit from play therapy. Espritmind offers a broad range of services including therapists and Play therapy specialists who can help individuals face their psychological issues and improve their day-to-day lives. Families who are worried about their child’s mental health can seek help and take a step towards a better and healthier future.