Play is to the child what talk is to the adult. It is a medium for expressing feelings, exploring relationships, describing experiences, disclosing wishes, and self-fulfillment. Children express themselves and their needs, relive their past, and connect with others through play. The use of toys enables children to transfer anxieties, fears, fantasies, and guilt to objects rather than people. In the process, children are safe from their own feelings and reactions because play enables children to distance themselves from traumatic events and experiences.
Who Can Benefit?
Play therapy is a well-established discipline based upon a number of psychological theories. Research, both qualitative and quantitative, show that it is highly effective in many cases (http://www.playtherapy.org/playhowdoestpwork.html). Play therapy is used to treat problems that are interfering with the child's normal development. Reasons for treatment include, but are not limited to, temper tantrums, aggressive behaviour, attachment issues, separation anxiety, difficulties with sleep or nightmares, anxiety, depression, families experiencing separation/divorce, and children who have experienced sexual or physical abuse, neglect, or the loss of a family member.
What does a Typical Session Look Like?
The use of toys enables children to transfer anxieties, fears, fantasies, and guilt to objects rather than people. In the process, children are safe from their own feelings and reactions because play enables children to distance themselves from traumatic experiences and events. The therapist will verbally reflect back to the child his or her behaviours, thoughts, and emotions. This validates the child’s inner experience and helps organize both their experiences and their emotions. The main goals, regardless of the issue, are to help children regain their former level of functioning, enhance self-esteem and build the child’s coping resources. Play therapy is best suited to children two to twelve years of age. Sometimes the child is given strategies to cope with difficulties they face in life and which they themselves cannot change— it can provide a more positive view of their life.