What is Play Therapy ?
Play is a natural and spontaneous part of people’s lives. During play children learn about their physical surroundings, their own capabilities and limitations, social rules and the difference between fantasy and reality. In play, children interact with toys and other people as they enter new experiences and rehearse new skills. In addition, play is one way children learn to communicate and can show others things that are too complicated to say.
Play Therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all of which make use of one or more of the natural benefits of play. All Play Therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children systematically address and resolve their own problems. Since play is fun, it makes it easier for children to confront what is bothering them. Play allows them 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. Once children have expressed and addressed their problems through play, the therapist will be better able to help them find solutions to their problems in life.
Children are able to express their thoughts and feelings, their likes and dislikes, and their hopes and fears during play therapy. Positive and negative feelings can be expressed and pent-up emotions can be released by playing rather than talking. In this way, children are able to explore and gain control over their thoughts, feelings and actions. This control contributes to a sense of mastery and builds up a child’s self-confidence.
How do I know my child may need play therapy and how will it benefit them?
There are many ways that children can benefit from Play Therapy. Research supports the effectiveness of Play Therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: post-traumatic stress, conduct disorder, aggression, anxiety/fearfulness, depression, ADHD, impulsivity, low self-esteem, reading difficulties, and social withdrawal. Play Therapy has been used successfully with children whose problems are related to life stresses such as divorce, death, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, physical/sexual abuse, domestic violence and natural disasters.
What can I expect from the process?
It is important to remember that play therapy is a process and cannot be seen as a short-term fix. It normally follows the process outlined below:
Evaluation Phase (Approximately 1 hour): In the intake the psychologist will ask you a number of questions, some of which may be very personal but they will not ask you any irrelevant questions. They may need to contact relevant people for additional information, such as teachers etc. They will not do so without your consent.
Assessment Phase (Approximately 4 sessions): Your child will need to attend four 45 minute play therapy sessions in order for the psychologist to get a better understanding of your child’s emotional world. Therapy usually brings improved functioning and personal growth in the long term. In the short term, however, it may be an unsettling experience, as it is usually an emotional experience. As a result of this, your child may initially start to act out or experience emotional distress as a result of the beginning of therapy.
Parent Feedbacks (Approximately 1 hour): Parent feedback sessions will usually occur after the assessment phase, and once per term unless it is felt to be necessary to meet more frequently.
Therapy: The length of therapy will depend on what is determined to be necessary by your child, you and the psychologist in discussion.