What is Play Therapy?
“In the playroom, toys are used like words and play is the child’s language. Children are provided special toys in play therapy to enable them to say with the toys what they have difficulty saying with words…They can use the dolls, puppets, paints, or other toys to say what they think or how they feel.” (Landreth, 2002). Children are not fully able to express their internal world with words and so while “talk therapy‟ is helpful for adults, children need the distance of expression created in play therapy. Play therapy allows children a safe psychological distance from their problems, safety needed for their identity development, and allows them to express their true thoughts and feelings in ways best suited for their developmental level. As children begin to communicate their inner world through play, a healing relationship is built with the therapist to bring connection amidst the healing aspect of sharing. When we think of moments in our life that have been helpful and healing to our souls, typically we were vulnerable and someone caring offered connection, compassion, and truth. This happens in play therapy where the therapist and child build a relationship that provides the ground work necessary for change and growth.
Parents have an important role in the Play Therapy process. They can do much to enhance the work their child does in session, as parents are the experts on their child. The therapist will meet with the parents to learn past and present issues in the child’s life, to share observations (general themes, helpful responses, and progress), and suggestions on how parents can be supportive with their child’s therapy. While therapy does take place in a playroom, much of the hard work of change will continue into their daily life, making parental involvement essential.
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