Play therapy is a medium of expression, communication, and form of counseling utilized with children ages 3-12 (Carmichael, 2006; Gil, 1991; Landreth, 2002; Schaefer, 1993). Adults tend to verbalize their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs while children utilize play to communicate, learn, process and resolve psychosocial challenges. Play therapy helps alleviate emotional and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma in addition to building confidence, learning social integration, growth and development, emotional modulation, and trauma resolution.
Play therapy helps children:
Learn to take responsibility for their actions, behaviors, and feelings and develop more successful coping strategies.
Learn how to express emotions in healthy ways.
Develop empathy and respect for other individuals and peers.
Gain new social, emotional, and learning skills.
Foster personal growth and self-efficacy.
Develop more effective and creative solutions to problems.
Gain respect and acceptance of self and others.
Increase feelings of self-worth.
How does play therapy work?
Children are referred for play therapy to resolve their problems at home, school, etc., (Carmichael; 2006; Schaefer, 1993). Referrals are often made by the parent/guardian, school, or daycare. Some children may not have the capacity to express themselves verbally and often misbehave or their play becomes aggressive in nature (i.e biting, spitting, throwing items), may act out at home/school setting, with friends, and in other settings (Landreth, 2002). Play is essentially the child’s language and the therapist will utilize strategies to help the child resolve issues. Play therapy allows trained mental health therapists who specialize in play therapy assess the situation, increase positive behaviors, and help the caregiver understand their child’s feelings and have a better relationship with them.
Furthermore, play therapy is utilized to help children cope with difficult emotions that they may not be able to verbalize and find solutions to problems that increase wellness (Moustakas, 1997; Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2005). Children that engage in play therapy services often develop healthier, effective solutions and learn ways to express themselves than those that do not engage in these therapeutic interventions. Play therapy allows children to change the way they think, feel, act, and resolve any issues and concerns (Kaugars & Russ, 2001). Even the most severe issues can be identified, confronted, and resolved in play therapy (i.e. sexual abuse, trauma, neglect) and positive outcomes can be developed, transformed into lifelong effective strategies, and ultimately into functioning healthy individuals (Russ, 2004). Research data supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of cognitive, social, and emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: children whose issues are related to life adjustments (moving to a new school or city), life stressors, such as divorce, loss of a parent or death of a pet, surgeries, hospitalizations, traumatic experiences, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters (Bratton, Ray, Rhine, & Jones, 2005; LeBlanc & Ritchie, 2001; Lin & Bratton, 2015; Ray, Armstrong, Balkin, & Jayne, 2015; Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2005).
What is filial therapy? Play therapy is often paired up filial therapy for the children's caregivers and/or guardians. The caregiver learns new skills regarding how to have a better relationship with their child by understanding their child's feelings, how to acknowledge them, and learn skills to help promote their child's wellness and development.
How long are the sessions?
Each child is different and session lengths will vary from 30-50 minutes based on the initial assessment, development, chronological age, and reported behaviors/ concerns. The play therapist will have parent consultations to provide progress reports, areas of growth, and themes of the child’s play to help the caregiver understand their child’s behaviors and feelings.
Hill Country Therapy & Testing 1021 RR 620 S, Ste B Lakeway, TX 78734 512-551-9356