What is Play Therapy?
“Toys are children’s words and play is their language.”
-Garry L. Landreth
Play therapy is more than just playing a board game, arranging a dollhouse, doing a craft, or playing doctor. Play therapy is an empirically valid approach to therapy that is developmentally appropriate for children. Children are better able to express their thoughts and feelings through play than by words alone. Children are limited in communicating their experiences, however, they are able to play it out metaphorically in order to convey meaning. Toys are never just toys, but deep symbols for the child.
Through play therapy, the therapist enters the child’s world and creates a safe place for play expression. The therapist works to understand the meanings being conveyed by the child. Play therapy can help children learn how to express their feelings, cope with difficult emotions, work through trauma, modify behavior, problem-solve, communicate with others, and learn new ways to relate to others. New, healthy brain pathways are created through therapy that will promote resilience in the child that will positively impact the rest of their life.
Play therapy has been utilized for all kinds of social, emotional, and behavioral issues. Research supports play therapy’s effectiveness in treating children whose problems are related to divorce, grief and loss, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, adoption, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, natural disasters, developmental challenges, and other stressful experiences. Typically, play therapy works best for ages 4-12.
If you have noticed behavioral differences in your child recently, such as outbursts of anger, tantrums, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, persistent worry or sadness, nightmares, loss of interest in activities, or an inability to concentrate, play therapy could be a great next step.