Children have great imaginations, and they use it in every aspect of their lives. Through acts and moments of play, children create imaginary scenarios all the time. They do this with their friends, toys, artwork, and storytelling. As adults, we can learn so much about a child’s world just through the simple act of observing their play. If something is going on in a child’s life, one of the best ways to discover its impact and the child’s perspective is by using play in child therapy.
Play therapy is an approach delivered by a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) specialized in working with children and adolescents. While play therapy techniques are often designed for children between the ages of 3-12, teenagers, and even adults, can benefit from the process. The use of play in therapy allows children to explore, express, and resolve conflicts and concerns.
Registered Play Therapist’s create child-friendly offices with specially chosen toys and supplies that encourage children to work through their feelings and discover healthier behaviors. Additional techniques, such as drama, storytelling, bibliotherapy, sand tray, painting, drawing, and creative visualization, may also be used. These methods allow children to engage in the therapeutic process in ways that come naturally to them.
Who can benefit from play therapy?:
- Children learning how to regulate and safely express their emotions
- Children experiencing grief, loss, or divorce
- Children exhibiting symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Children who demonstrate attachment or relationship difficulties
- Children involved in the fostering or adoption system or those adjusting to changes in the family system
- Children with a history of abuse or trauma
- Children who are neurodiverse
Here are some ways play therapy can help:
1. It helps them heal from past traumatic experiences. When children go through traumatic events, negative experiences can create emotional and behavioral problems. Play therapy helps them make sense of it by using their imagination to express themselves through toys. For example, a child who has witnessed domestic violence may demonstrate this in their play by having their toys fight each other. Playing through those memories can help the child unpack emotions, understand the experience better, and heal.
2. It enhances creative thoughts and ideas. During play, children can tap into their creativity and problem-solve. Children can create new endings and take control of their stories. This gives them a better understanding of what’s happening in their lives and helps them cope.
3. It helps them deal with difficult emotions and situations. Play therapy involves activities that support the therapist’s discovery of how a child deals with difficult emotions and situations. By assessing their play, the therapist is then able to help the children address these difficulties. For example, a child experiencing divorce may play out scenarios of conflict that resemble their home environment. By reflecting on their observations, the therapist can validate the client’s experience and help them identify how the situation is impacting them.
4. It gives the child emotional support. It helps them communicate their problems and concerns with others- In play therapy, children learn to work through complicated feelings and memories that they may not know how to put in words by expressing themselves symbolically with toys. This helps the adults in their lives understand what children need in order to provide the right type of help and support.
Play therapy is effective and beneficial, and kids who engage in play therapy show improvement and display a higher confidence level. Working with complicated feelings through play can be deeply restorative for children.
I utilize play therapy techniques in my sessions and am currently training towards my RPT credential. I provide toys, games, and supplies for my clients and tailor sessions to meet my clients’ specific needs. If you would like a free 15-minute consultation, please – click here.