Does a Child Need Help?
Play is a child’s natural medium of expression just like talking is an adults’ natural form of communication. It is difficult for children to understand their emotions, and even more difficult to express. Since play comes naturally to children, it provides a non-threatening way to express themselves. Play allows children a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows them to express their true thoughts and feelings in ways best suited to their developmental level.
Play therapy helps with anger and rage, depression, anxiety, and developmental growth and learning.
How does Play therapy work?
Play is considered symbolic in the sense that children will act and reenact the perception of their environment, issues they struggle with, their thoughts and feelings. Jean Piaget, the noted Swiss psychologist, believed that play could heal through its compensating and cathartic characteristics. For example, if a child has lost a pet, the child can play out a sick pet that is cured by the child in therapy. The child plays this game many times and in the process tries to understand death. Every time, he/she re-enacts this play, his anxiety decreases and he feels more in control.
When a child is angry, he/she may spank his doll and send her to bed without dinner. This way he is expressing the anger that he has at his parents or sibling. Piaget believed that when children use symbols, they relive a painful situation and thereby liquidate it. Thus they may enact forbidden actions and neutralize their fears by doing in play what they would not dare do in reality.
Is there one specific kind of Play Therapy?
There are many different ways of conducting play therapy, all treatment methods make use of the natural benefits of play. A play therapist is a trained mental health professional who facilitates play so that the child can systematically address and resolve his/her own problems. Play therapy allows trained play therapists to assess and understand children’s play and to use it in assisting the child in coping with difficult emotions and in finding solutions to their problems The play therapist uses traditional play techniques like the dollhouse; dress up clothes, puppets, water play, arts and crafts material, board games, sand tray, and music. They also employ modeling behaviors through role-playing in which they take turns with the child to act like teacher, sibling, friend and parent etc. to teach children better conflict resolution. Play therapy sessions can be structured or unstructured. Play therapists work differently but all use the benefits of play to psychologically help children. Some play therapists work more directly with the problem of the child and some play therapists work with the child holistically for insight into the child’s personality and perceptions.
What does the therapist do in play therapy?
The key technique in play therapy is the therapist’s interpretation of symbolic play in words that the child is ready to accept and understand, and offering new ways in the context of play to control and manage fears, anxieties, and negative emotions.
Are parents involved?
It is important for the child to feel safe in play therapy. Sometimes parents are part of the play therapy session and sometimes the therapist conducts the session with the child. It depends on the therapists’ style, and the nature of the problem. When the therapist meets with the child alone, most play therapists engage in the concept of “confidentiality” which means that what children specifically say and do in play therapy will be kept confidential (exceptions include allegations of abuse or harm to self and others). The play therapist will involve the parent by sharing general themes, helpful responses, and progress in therapy with the parent as well as meet with the parent on a regular basis. This confidentiality allows children to feel that they can fully express themselves without being inhibited by the concern over their parents’ reactions or feelings. Play therapists may also facilitate family therapy on a regular basis in which all or some family members may participate to work toward therapeutic success for the child.