Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is Play Therapy?

Jennifer Hendricks, M.Ed., LPC, RPT 

Play Therapy can be individual, family or group based, for kids as young as 3 through early teens.  It  is beneficial for children because they are able to express themselves through their most natural language, play.  The toys utilized in the playroom allow for expression of nurturing, aggressive and collaborative play.  By engaging with the therapist, a child is able to enhance problem solving skills, expression of feelings and develop coping strategies to use in everyday life.

Play Therapists can also utilize sand trays with a multitude of miniatures to allow children to create their world and process situations.  Kids can show family or peer situations.  I’ve seen battle scenes, playground scenes and slumber party scenes.  Toys utilized in the playroom are specific and selected in that there are no rules for the play.  Puppets, dollhouses, family figures, animals, dress up and building play are all included in the playroom.

Book series are often used in the playroom to address specific situations with children.  This is beneficial for children with a history of trauma, specific anxieties or worries or to allow for developmentally appropriate expression.  

Therapeutic games are helpful in addressing situations with children of all ages.  These games can be focused on increasing self awareness, self expression and social skills.

Play Therapy is engaging for all kids, big and small.  I enjoy watching children connect with me and their families by learning a new skill or expressing difficult emotions.  I’ve seen kids share their feelings with parents about traumatic events and seen kids discuss helpful strategies to help them with peers at school.   Kids can learn to identify their strengths and accomplishments through play.   Play therapy can be combined with talk therapy to address topics in a less threatening manner and allow children to process topics that would be difficult in a dialogue.   We can learn from children that we are never too old to play!

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