Date: 27 June 2021
By: Gaby Shapiro
Play therapy offers a child their own private space to work through any emotional, social and/or behavioural difficulties they might be experiencing. In using play, a child engages the natural means through which children learn and express many of their feelings.
Play therapy helps children understand muddled feelings and upsetting events that they haven’t had the chance to sort out properly. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.
Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, create and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.
Play therapy helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.
The outcomes of play therapy may be general e.g., a reduction in anxiety and raised self-esteem, or more specific such as a change in behaviour and improved relations with family and friends.
The length of the process differs for each child; some children may respond to short-term intervention. However, other times long-term intervention may be necessary. This needs to be continuously discussed with your child’s therapist.
Be consistent and encouraging to your child about attending sessions regularly. Resist the urge to ask your child what they did, as this will put pressure on them to comment on something they may have difficulty understanding themselves. Your child does not need to be “good” during the therapy sessions. Therapy is not about being ‘good’ or ‘bad; your child must feel free to express any and all feelings (including the “bad” ones) in an uncensored way. Therapy is their time to feel free and to express themselves at their own pace.
Always openly and honestly communicate any observations or concerns you might have throughout the play therapy process.