Play therapy

What is play therapy?

When one goes searching, here are a few things you may find: In recent years a growing number of noted mental health professionals have observed that play is as important to human happiness and well-being as love and work (Schaefer, 1993). Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego (Landreth, 2002). In addition, play allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are best fostered through play (Russ, 2004).

Our kids need play

When we were young, it was how we figured out how to make friends, how to step out of our comfort zone, how to make goals, and to how to be ourselves. In therapy, our children get to do the same. Play sessions give kids the opportunity to work through complex emotions, situations, and explore new strategies in a safe environment.

“Play is training for the unexpected.”

– Marc Bekoff, Contemporary American biologist

In a play therapy session, a professionally trained counselor will construct activities, games, or exercises for kids to work on verbalizing emotions, practicing appropriate social skills, working on self-regulation, and understanding their own behavior. Because young children typically do not respond well to traditional talk therapy, therapists will use evidence-based approaches rooting in play. These techniques have been researched and have shown to work well in addressing a variety of concerns experienced by children.

Play therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of conduct disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, depression, autism spectrum, anger management, trauma, grief and loss, attachment issues, divorce and family concerns, social and academic needs, and learning disorders.

Play therapy sessions can be tailored to the unique needs of the child.

Some sessions may be thirty minutes with extra time provided to parents to provide support and review skills learned, while others may be fifty minutes. Research suggests that it takes an average of twenty play therapy sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment. Of course, some children may improve much faster while more serious or on-going problems may take longer to resolve (Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002).

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