Play Therapy: What to expect
Play therapy: What to expect
Some people are confused by the idea of play therapy. And it is confusing, when you think of the traditional ‘therapy’ session and the idea of a person ‘working’ on themselves. But kids don’t clamour to jump on board with an activity that is difficult or confronting. And that’s what’s great about play therapy — it can help them process their emotions in a way that doesn’t feel like work.
What is play therapy?
Play therapy does what it says on the tin: it allows kids to work through issues or concerns through play. By creating different experiences, play therapists create a warm, accepting relationship with clients and their families. When the child feels comfortable and knows the therapist isn’t a threat, they naturally start to open up.
Sometimes these are free play sessions (also called non-directive play), which give kids a chance to work through their concern more independently. A therapist might also use directive play, which is more targeted. This method is used when the child needs a bit more support to address an issue.
What does play therapy do?
Play therapy can help with a huge range of issues that may be troubling kids. These include:
- Behavioural issues
- Stressful or traumatic events
- Social or academic concerns
- Learning disabilities
- Anxiety or depression
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Attention Deficit Disorder
But what will they play with?
Play therapists have many different options for their patients. Typically, these include things like dollhouses, finger puppets, art supplies, vehicles, animals, soldiers, action figures, Lego, blocks, cookware, pretend weapons, a doctor kit, play money and dress ups
What are the benefits of play therapy?
It’s important to note that play therapy isn’t appropriate for every child. Your child’s doctor or therapist will be able to identify the best course of action for your kiddo. For the kids who do engage in play therapy, there can be some real benefits.
- A safe space: Because they usually enjoy their sessions, play therapy can become something kids look forward to. Being open to attending sessions makes an amazing difference to the outcome. Also, if play therapy is done right, children can develop a trusting, open, relationship with their therapist, which helps them feel comfortable expressing emotions.
- Practicing feelings: Play therapy is a chance for kids to experience feelings that might be inappropriate in other settings. For example, a child can explore aggression and fantasy in a way that wouldn’t be OK in school. On the other hand, a child who hasn’t learned how to be nurturing or empathetic at home could practice in a play therapy session.
- Positive behaviours: Therapists often explore different situations and different outcomes through play in a way that isn’t possible in real life. A child could act out two responses to a situation with dolls in a dollhouse, and then have a conversation about making good choices. This reinforces positive behaviours without shaming the child.
Creative, expressive play
Play therapy highlights something that we’ve known all along: that play has so many benefits for kids from all walks of life. Apart from being fun, play makes kids more resilient, happier, smarter, and better at regulating their emotions. If you think your child would benefit from play therapy, always speak to your GP. They’ll be able to make recommendations about therapists in your area.