Children are often known to have a way with words and can say some of the most imaginative things. Some children, however, are not able to express themselves through the use of words. What can we do when a child struggles with putting their thoughts and feelings into words or is entirely non-verbal? What can we do when a child has a hard time managing their reactions and resorts to violence and other hostile behaviors? Recently, many mental health professionals and childcare providers have begun utilizing play therapy to help children who have a hard time expressing their thoughts and emotions do so in a way in which they can understand.
What is Play Therapy?
Most young children are not able to sit down and talk through their emotions. They are active and love to play. Therapists have realized this and have begun to use methods of play therapy to help children work through their thoughts and emotions on a level that they can understand. The Association for Play Therapy defines it as “an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.” In more common terms, play therapy is a method of therapy that can help children better work through and explain their thoughts and regulate their emotions. Play therapy can also be used to help autistic children develop their interpersonal relationships. It can include activities ranging from acting out scenarios with dolls as a way to build interpersonal skills to dancing as a way to control hyperactive urges. Play therapy sessions usually last for half an hour to an hour, depending on the need.
What are Its Benefits?
Philosophers and psychologists, such as Aristotle, Plato, and Freud, have long been outspoken about the benefits that play can have for a child’s overall development. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking, and regulates our emotions. With modern society’s “education first” model, the concept of play to some people has been skewed or even lost. Studies have shown that play therapy can help children manage their reactions to stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and hyperactivity. It can also benefit those involved in the child’s life. Play therapy is proven to work for many despite gender, age, or race. Because play therapy allows children to express themselves in a new way, parents and other adults can benefit from learning about their child’s thoughts and emotions. And this can help develop a stronger bond between the adult and the child.
Is Play Therapy Right for My Child?
If your child is struggling to communicate with you or is showing signs of distress that he or she is unable to verbalize, please give us a call. We can help you determine if play therapy might be helpful for your child. Here at Keri Powell Therapy we have several therapists who are trained and experienced in its methods and would be happy to work with your child to develop strategies for regulating their emotions and communicating in a way that works for you and them. One is sure to be the right therapist for you and your child.