Play is the natural language of children. While adults find relief in talking over their difficulties with an understanding therapist, children express their feelings through play, rather than words. Due to development, children often do not have the words to express feelings, so they represent how they feel through play. When children have the opportunity to show how they feel through play, they often feel better because their feelings have been released. You have probably felt something similar when you have been upset or anxious and confided in someone who cares about you. Play therapy is that for children.
Through therapeutic play, children learn how to express their thoughts and feelings in constructive ways, control their behavior, make decisions, and to accept responsibility. This helps children explore and work through presenting concerns and conflict so they can grow and development in a healthy manner. All feelings are accepted in play therapy but not all behavior. The play therapist sets limits to keep the child and themselves physically and emotionally safe. Because of the prior knowledge of the child’s probable issues, the play therapist is alert to possible links between the child’s play and emotional conflicts. Specific toys are chosen for the playroom that help children safely express their feelings and underlying concerns.
Play therapy is therapeutic for children by providing a safe and non-judgmental environment that helps children overcome stressful or traumatic life experiences, helps to provide tools to resolve and overcome conflict, increases self-esteem, and allows for healthy development that can often be interrupted by stressful and traumatic life experiences.
It is one of our goals to ensure that the child does not feel talked about and that they sense that play therapy time is for them, and them alone. Therefore, we ask that parents refrain from discussing important events that have occurred in the child’s life in the presence of the child (for instance, in the waiting room before or after a session). Information that needs to be given to the play therapist should be provided over the phone prior to, or following the therapy session. Additionally, I ask that parents do not ask their children to “report” events in the play therapy sessions.
Your role, as a parent or guardian, is vital to the process of helping your child grow healthier and fulfill his or her potential. You will be providing essential information about your child’s past and present capabilities and challenges, as well as the goals you have in mind for your child’s successful outcome. Parent consultations/family therapy sessions are scheduled at regular intervals in order to access your child’s progress, exchange feedback regarding any changes taking place in your child’s behavior or mood, and address any questions or concerns you may have.
I encourage you to discuss with me any questions or concerns you may have about the process or the progress of your child in play therapy.