You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year in conversation.
I often recommend play therapy to parents whose young children are struggling emotionally and behaviorally. As you can probably imagine, this recommendation is often met with a blank stare. Reluctant and a bit skeptical, parents often underestimate the power of using play in the therapy process.
Play therapy is for children, what talk therapy is for adults & play therapy happens to be one of the most effective ways of helping children navigate the complicated and often emotionally trying process of growing up. Play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach to therapy that builds on the normal communicative and learning processes of children. Play is a child’s language, and it is through therapeutic play that children learn to:
- Assume greater self-responsibility
- Become more self-directed
- Become more self-accepting
- Become more self-reliant
- Engage in self-determined decision making
- Experience a feeling of control over his/her environment, thus reducing generalized anxiety
- Become sensitive to the process of coping
- Develop an internal source of evaluation
- Become more trusting of self.
Play therapy is best suited for children ages 3-12, however, in recent years, play therapy has been used with toddlers as well. The toys in the play therapy room are specifically selected to allow a child to explore social roles, such as nurturing baby dolls or dress up like a police officer. Therapists are trained to notice patterns & themes in a child’s play as a way of helping the child resolve internal struggles & move towards healing.
Therapy sessions vary in length, but generally last between 30-45 minutes. Research suggests that it takes an average of 20 sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment. Of course, some children may improve much faster while more serious or ongoing problems may take longer to resolve.
If you think your child could benefit from play therapy or have any further questions about this powerful treatment modality, don’t hesitate to contact me at Family Connections Counseling (817-545-7100) or find out more information at the Association for Play Therapy (www.A4PT.org).
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”-George Bernard Shaw