Play Therapy is a specific and structured form of counseling or psychotherapy that uses play to communicate with and help people, especially children, to prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges.
This form of therapy utilizes toys and other creative mediums that allow children to express themselves at a level that is appropriate for their age. It is also helpful in identifying emotional health issues before they manifest into something too powerful for the child to manage on their own.
Play Therapy is the preferred method of treatment of most parents who are concerned about their child’s development or their behavior, but it is also effective in treating mental health disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and early onset of bipolar disorder.
Not all parents know exactly what to do when their child acts out or if they are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, but research shows that even the most troubling problems children experience can be confronted in Play Therapy. The idea behind this method of psychotherapy is to allow the child to be in control, which provides them with a sense of confidence and order during a turbulent or stressful time.
It is especially important parents seek professional help when their child is struggling with mental health issues, a significant trauma, or a major life change, such as a sudden death, domestic abuse, or divorce.
What to Expect During Play Therapy:
Building a relationship between a child and the therapist is the initial focus of Play Therapy. This relationship is a very important tool in the therapeutic process because a child or adolescent will more readily talk about their intimate feelings when they feel respected and accepted.
Based on the treatment plan adopted, children will learn new social integration skills, how to adapt their behaviors in a number of situations and environments, and how to embrace their growth and development in a healthy way. Therapists will use research-based techniques to help children manage emotions, and if necessary, resolve mental health issues associated with trauma. Play Therapy may also be used to promote cognitive development and resolve inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking in the child.
Benefits Play Therapy has for Children:
The most important benefit of Play Therapy is how it teaches a child how to be responsible for their behaviors, develop successful strategies to deal with life stressors, and develop new and creative solutions to problems. With the help of a licensed mental health professional, this method helps to facilitate healing from stressful or traumatic experiences from their past, while providing a safe environment for them to express their feelings. From there they will work to experience and express emotions in a healthy manner, and with the help of a therapist, cultivate empathy and respect for others’ thoughts and feelings. By supporting the learning of new ways of thinking and behaving, a therapist will also guide the child toward accepting others’ differences while recognizing how to become more self-sufficient in utilizing their skills and natural gifts to effectively communicate and solve problems.
Signs that a Child Needs Therapy:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worry, anxiety, or fear
- Constant anger and a tendency to overreact to situations
- Sudden and unexplained drop in grades at school or loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Changes in patterns of sleeping or eating
- Reclusiveness, preferring to be alone rather than in the company of friends or family
- Hearing voices that aren't there
- Expressing thoughts of suicide
- The inability to concentrate, think clearly, sit still, or make decisions
- Performing routines obsessively throughout the day, such as washing hands or cleaning things
- Experiencing regular nightmares
- Alcohol or drug use
- Dieting obsessively, binging followed by vomiting, or taking laxatives
- Taking part in violent acts such as setting fires or killing animals