Play therapy can help a child to process their emotions and understand others. Learn what are the benefits of play therapy that can help children and adults deal with their mental health.

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is utilized in counseling of children ages 3 to 11 because children can open up and act out their feelings in the world of play. Play is their natural way of communicating and the therapist can enter the child’s world through it. The play therapists will be able to understand the children and help them resolve their psychological and psychosocial issues. With play therapy, children can express their feelings and experiences where children can be guided and helped towards better and healthier social growth and development.

Benefits of Play Therapy

Play therapy creates a safe place for children to express their feelings and thoughts. It creates a relationship of trust built between the child and the play therapist. It makes way to the development of self-esteem and the coping ability of the children. Aside from supporting the emotional healing and growth of a child it also assists them in making decisions and to be more responsible.

Play Therapy Sessions

Children aged from 3 years old can receive play therapy may be weekly sessions in a special playroom. Parents and caregivers are among the people whose roles are important during the therapy process, thus, regular meetings are scheduled to make sure that they are updated with the child’s progress. Some other situations advised the parent to also receive play therapy but they should be provided in a separate process where they both share the playroom with the child to strengthen their relationship.

What happens in the playroom is that the child is given a wide selection of toys to choose from which are provided by the play therapist. Usually, they are arts and crafts materials, dressing up props, sand and water, clay, small figures like animals, musical instruments, books, and puppets. Through these materials, the therapist will encourage the child to express him or herself where talking can be difficult. The child’s engagement with these toys is essential as they serve as symbolic words. This helps the therapist to learn about the thoughts and emotions of the child that they may have found difficult to express verbally.

Types of play therapy

Play therapy is primarily used for children and teens since some of them may have difficulty in processing their emotions or some problems in communicating with their parents or other people. A registered play therapist uses playtime to help the child explore his or her emotions, mental health, and deal with unresolved problems. While others may look at play therapy as an ordinary playtime but there is more to it and a therapist is a person who assists the child in this therapy.

There are two types of play therapy. The one is non-directive therapy where the play therapy is in charge of the whole session process. It is called client-centered, an unstructured therapy guided by the idea that if the child or a teenager is given the right chance to speak and play freely, they will be able to resolve their issues towards their own solutions. Non-directive therapy is considered as non-intrusive wherein there are only a few boundary conditions and is applicable at any age. It originated from Carl Rogers’ non-directive psychotherapy where he characterized the optimal therapeutic conditions. Aside from play therapy, some of the therapies that were around earlier like sand play therapy, family therapy, and play therapy that belongs to non-directive play therapy. The therapist can engage in the process if the children will allow it.

The other type of play therapy is directive play therapy. It utilizes directives in guiding the child through play and is believed to make a faster change than the other type. In this type of therapy, the therapist plays an important role in making techniques to have an engaging with the children. They suggest topics instead of allowing the child to lead the conversation. Games are chosen by the therapist for the child and all the stories read are more likely to have an explicit purpose. Play therapists also create interpretations of the stories told by the children and their responses in all of the activities.

Play therapy facilitates child development

Parents and caregivers often worry if they notice some problem with the child that makes them sad, disruptive, rebellious, and unable to cope or attentive. They tend to be concerned in their development, unstable sleeping and eating patterns, their ability to get along with family, friends, and even with their peers at school. Although every child is unique, they can encounter problems with their feelings and behaviors that can affect their lives and of those around them. In this matter, parents and children should seek help to address this significant difficulty to help the child.

Play is important to the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and language development. It helps the children learn easily and to be engaging with other young children also with young adults. Play therapy helps the kids in different ways such as allowing them to receive emotional support and they will be able to understand their feelings and thoughts. Children are encouraged to explore their life events that may affect their present situation and difficulties. During this process, children can act out or re-enact their traumatic experiences to be able to face their past and be more coping in the future. They will also be given the chance to manage their relationships with their parents, siblings, and friends in a more appropriate approach.

Importance Of Play

When children are having personal issues they tend to act out or engage in inappropriate behavior. As parents, they are determined to find a solution but may also find it impossible to provide effective help if the child is not willing to be helped or not at ease to discuss the problem. Play therapy is the best known beneficial means of helping children who are having these emotional or behavioral issues.

Play is known to be a way for an individual, especially the children, to relax but scientific research proves that play is not just about fun but has a huge role in healthy child development. It has been discovered that newborn babies have billions of brain cells but are not fully functioning human brains. It was revealed by the neuroscience study that the brain grows and mature within the first 5 years of a child’s life and play is a contributing factor for the brain to fully develop due to the interconnecting neurons. These links play a significant role in the child’s life such as children learn about their social, emotional, and memory development.

Guidelines For Effective Play Therapy

Play therapy is proven to be an effective form of therapy for people of all ages more particularly for children. Therapists use some set of guidelines and practices to assist the person in their care and to make the most out of the benefits of play therapy.

It is recommended that if the child is receiving play therapy, the important person in the child’s life should also receive an adjunctive therapy. The therapist may explain or discuss the treatment plans to the child and his or her guardian and should express emphasis in promoting the mental health and psychosocial development of the child throughout the process. Therapists can also work with doctors or other physicians to ensure that the welfare of the child is the main focus of the treatment.

Conclusion

The play has been proven to be especially important for the healthy development of children especially those who have past events like trauma or stressful experiences. These children are unlikely to open up with other people and will have a lesser capacity to communicate or process adverse challenges. So play therapy may help the children to move on from traumatic memories through physical and role-playing activities the therapy is associated with. So the outcome of the playing therapy can be generalized to a reduction in anxiety and to raise self-esteem and the most specific which is to change behavior and improve relations with family and friends.

It is important that you are only choosing a qualified Play therapist for your child. A professional who completed specialized training in play therapy from an accredited BAPT institution. The therapeutic relations created from the sessions between the child and the therapist are important, this way during the child’s therapy they will feel comfortable, safe, and acknowledged. A safe environment with trust will make it easier for the child to express his or her thoughts and feelings. It will also facilitate them to develop skills that will allow them to manage their behaviors.

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