What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Although it may look like just playtime, play therapy creates a space that is developmentally appropriate for children. With the assistance of a trained professional, playtime is used to observe and gain insights into a child’s world. The counselor can then help the child explore emotions and learn new ways to cope. As Vygotsky quoted, “a child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has acquired.”
Children communicate differently than adults and often express their feelings most clearly through art and play. These approaches to therapy are used as a means for working with children who don’t yet have the language skills to express their thoughts and emotions clearly and verbally.
Who Can Benefit?
Although research shows anyone can benefit from play, we recommend it for those between 5-8 years of age. Play therapy is proven effective when working with life situations and adjustments such as divorce, death, relocation, and chronic illness. It is also effective with behavioral issues, anxiety, self esteem, and social skills.
“Children’s feelings are inaccessible at a verbal level. Developmentally they lack the cognitive and verbal ability to express what they feel, and emotionally they are not able to focus on the intensity of what they feel in a manner that can be expressed adequately. The child’s world is a world of concretes and play is the concrete expression of the child and is the child’s way of coping with the world” (Landreth, 2012).
Reference: Landreth, G. (2012). Play Therapy: The art of the relationship. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Routledge.