If you are interested in play therapy for your child, request an appointment with our counselor Ella Walker!
What is play therapy?
Have you ever tried to sit your child down to have a serious conversation with them and you lose their attention in about 30 seconds? This experience is typical, which is why play therapy was created. Adults may be able to come into a counseling office to sit and have a conversation with a therapist, but children don’t often have the words to articulate their feelings and experiences. Play is their words. Play therapy is a type of therapy for children to allow them the space to express their feelings, learn new skills, and solve problems. The beauty of play therapy is that the therapist meets the child where they are at through specifically chosen toys to cultivate an environment of expression and processing.
There are several different theories that play therapists operate from, but generally, there are two types of play therapy techniques: non-directive and directive. Non-directive is where the child takes the lead in the play and the therapist is there to observe, interact with them, and look for themes in the play that may indicate something deeper is going on. Directive is where the therapist chooses an activity to work on the therapeutic goals for the child, and they do it together. Some therapists are solely non-directive, some are solely directive, and some use an integrated approach, but both techniques are evidence-based practices.
Benefits of play therapy
How do I know if play therapy is right for my child?
Looking at the therapeutic powers of play (diagram shown above), play therapy can provide natural benefits for every child. Parents typically look into therapy for their child when issues arise behaviorally, or negative circumstances impact their life. Behavior issues can include angry outbursts, lack of attention/focus, defiance, trouble completing simple tasks, extreme thinking and/or comments, loss of interest in activities, social struggles, anxiety, sensitivity, perfectionism, separation anxiety, panic attacks, OCD behaviors, lying, suicidal thoughts/comments, trouble in school, etc. Negative circumstances can include divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a pet, abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual), moving, household conflict, natural disasters, life transitions, etc. Whether your child has experienced several things on this list, or only one, you can’t go wrong with giving them a space where they can freely be themselves, without rules or expectations, that empowers them to become more confident in who they are and teaches them how to navigate hard things. Also, therapy is not forever; it is for a season and will always be there when/if you need to come back to it. Committing to play therapy now gives your child a foundation of skills that they can use into adulthood. If you are feeling unsure about getting your child in to see a play therapist, it can be helpful to schedule a parent meeting with the therapist to discuss your concerns about your child to get their feedback. The therapist can guide you into the next steps if you both decide play therapy would be a good fit.