Children learn a lot through play. It’s an opportunity to explore their creative side, sort out their feelings, test out ideas, and learn everything from what happens when you build a block tower too high to the result of mixing blue with yellow paint. Parents may think play as a part of therapy is a little strange, but to children and the experts, play therapy for a child is much like talking with a counselor for an adult: They get the opportunity to process complicated feelings in a safe place. Using play as a means of engagement provides children with a positive approach to exploring their worries and troubles.
What is play therapy?
Developed in the early twentieth century, child therapists have utilized play to help children outwardly express what is bothering them inside. Toys represent the child’s words. Play therapists are trained to plan specific activities to build trust and foster a relationship where their patients can open up emotionally. Children learn valuable skills engaging in play therapy such as problem-solving, communication, how to resolve conflict, self-control, and self-respect. From psychologists to social workers, many turn to this form of counseling to better understand what a child is going through.
How does play therapy work?
Blocks, molding clay, sand trays with small figures, and dolls stand in as representations of what a child wants to communicate. Therapists look for the signs and symbolic nature of what the child is trying to share. As the therapist and child play together, children begin to open up and allow themselves to talk about their worries in an environment that does not pressure them to do anything but what they do best—play.
The therapist creates goals and objectives tailored to the child’s unique needs by observing the child and through parent or guardian interviews. Sometimes, other family members are invited to take part in a session to help improve relationships, foster healing, and model positive communication and conflict resolution.
What can play therapy treat?
The therapeutic benefits of play therapy help children who show symptoms of:
- Defiance disorders
- Attention disorders (not hyperactive)
Play therapy is not just for children battling mental health issues. It can also help children who:
- Are preparing for a medical procedure or have been diagnosed with a chronic illness
- Show signs of being bullied or are the aggressor
- Have been diagnosed with a developmental delay
- Struggle to make friends
- Do not like to play alone or with others
- Display chronic eating issues
- Unable or unwilling to use the toilet when necessary
- Have a difficult time sleeping
- Have lost a loved one or peer
- Have experienced trauma
There is more than one way to help others experience healing from trauma. Let the professionals at Valley Oaks Health help you discover the benefits play therapy can bring to your child’s life. Contact us today!