What is play therapy?
Play therapy works similarly to “talk” therapy for adults, except children are able to use their preferred method of expression – play – to describe their inner world. In talk therapy, talking is a medium used to set up conditions for change. However, the play in play therapy is the source of change itself.
What does play therapy look like?
Play therapy isn’t simply letting children play with toys until time runs out. It is an evidence-based therapeutic approach. Research shows that play therapy can be effective in treating a range of issues children face, including abuse, aggressive or acting-out behaviors, anxiety, autism, bedwetting post-toilet training, divorce or separation, grief, reading difficulties, speech difficulties, and phobias. In a typical session, toys, games and other materials are carefully set out for the child. These items are specifically chosen for the play therapy room based on the child’s ability to manipulate each item without help and for their appropriateness to the child’s unique circumstances. The child is offered a safe and non-judgmental space to choose from the allotted toys and materials, explore their feelings, and act out real-world experiences. As the child expresses themselves with toys, the therapist is invited into their thoughts and is often invited into the play itself. A therapeutic relationship is formed between the play therapist and child through which the child is able to express, control, cope with, or reject their thoughts, feelings, and problems with the process of play.
What are the benefits of play therapy?
Change occurs in play therapy through four factors called the therapeutic powers of play. Play therapy facilitates communication, fosters emotional wellness, enhances social relationships, and increases personal strengths. These four powers encourage self-expression, promote catharsis and stress managements, develop social competence, develop self-esteem, resilience, and one’s ability to self-regulate.