How Play Therapy Helps Children Heal
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is a therapeutic discipline used to treat children (usually between the ages of 3 and 12) dealing with emotional, behavioural, and mental health issues. Play therapy creates a safe environment for therapy, and is widely regarded as beneficial in the emotional development of children. Typically, a play therapy session lasts between 30-50 minutes, during which a trained therapist (a mental health professional) helps a child resolve problems through the use of play. Family members can be involved, but they need guidance from the counsellor prior to involvement. Play therapy can also be used with adults.
Children are still learning to communicate between the ages of three and twelve. They may have difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings verbally. Play therapy is an effective method to reveal a child’s anxiety, feelings (anger, frustration, depression), and direct them in a positive way during the guided, therapeutic process of play.
A Non-Stressful Environment
Clinical settings can seem cold and intimidating, especially for small children. Play therapy is conducted in a counselling environment (called the “playroom) that designed to be comfortable for the child. The therapist invites the child, initially, to play in an open-ended manner. As the process continues, the therapist may encourage the child to play with items or participate in activities that allow the child to address his/her current problems.
By using toys to express feelings and thoughts about past traumatic experiences, children can begin to feel better. As intense feelings lessen, the child in play therapy begins to focus that mental energy toward problem solving and social skills. The therapist can help a child manage their emotions and make appropriate behavioural choices.
Play therapy can assist children who are “acting out,” and help parents better understand how to support their child’s healing. If you are interested in play therapy resources, call York Region Psychological Services. We have trained, accredited therapists who are ready to help: (416) 602-3230.