Play therapy is a systematic use of a theoretical model to develop an interpersonal process that is guided by a trained play therapist through the process of play, which functions to help children resolve and prevent future difficulties. Using a child’s primary communication method, play therapy incorporates games, activities, and play to help address and resolve a variety of problems. Play therapy allows children, ages 3-12 years of age, to learn about themselves, and explore relationships and the world around them in a safe and confidential setting with a trained child specialist. While it may look like ordinary playtime, play therapy is more than just that; it allows the therapist to observe and gain insight into the child’s problems based on their expressions through play. Much can be revealed in how a child interacts with different types of toys and their behavior in each session. Through play therapy children can work through issues that may cause distress to them, play out future issues, and express emotions through play. Essentially, play therapy is the equivalent to children as to what counseling is to adults.
There is a communication gap between children and adults depending on the age and stage of development of each child, children do not have the same communication skills as that of an adult. “Toys work like a child’s words, and play is the child’s language.”(Landreth, 2002) Through the analysis of the play, trained professionals identify concerns and weaknesses. After rapport and trust are established, a therapist can help to facilitate change. Play therapists help develop a child’s insight, effective communication skills, healthy emotional expression, problem-solving skills, and relational skills. Additionally, therapists work on rational thought processes, and behavior modification, resolve internal and external conflicts and help promote healthy solutions. Children learn to identify and cope with difficult emotions and behavioral issues through this process. Play therapy is used for various mental and emotional health conditions including anxiety, depression, anger management, grief, loss, divorce, trauma, and child abuse. Additionally, play therapy can be used to treat behavioral disorders including, ADHD, spectrum disorders, social skills development, learning disabilities, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiance. Play therapists pay close attention to how a child interacts with different types of toys and depending on these observations the Child's therapy will be tailored to their specific needs. There comes a point where the therapist may include parents, siblings, or other close family members in the session to help teach conflict resolution and to promote healing within the family dynamic.
Play therapy sessions at heritage are typically scheduled in 50-minute increments once a week or as needed. The amount of sessions depends on the child, their response to therapy and the issues treated. Therapists may use techniques such as creative visualization, storytelling, arts and crafts, dolls and action figures, creative movement, legos and construction toys, and board games for the older kids. Depending on the child and situation the therapist will lean towards a certain method of play or allow the child to choose for themselves. Play therapy isn’t just for small children, teens can also have a difficult time expressing their innermost feelings in words.
Play therapy may be helpful in a variety of situations which include:
Facing medical procedures or chronic illnesses
Developmental delay or learning disabilities
School-related behavioral problems
Aggressive or angry behavior
Family issues such as divorce, separation, or death of a loved one
Natural disasters or traumatic events
Domestic violence, abuse, or neglect
Anxiety, depression, grief
Eating and toileting disorders
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
If your child is struggling at home or school, is having a difficult time adjusting to new siblings, is struggling with peers, is frequently angry, sad, or worried, seems out of control, or you are simply not sure how to help your child with their difficulties, play therapy may be the perfect option for your family.
Play therapy provides a safe space where children can express themselves, try new things, learn about how the world works, and work through their problems. Play therapy provides the tools necessary to help children through healing from past stressful or traumatic events, allowing them to express their emotions in a safe environment, encouraging the child’s creative thoughts and ideas, allowing the development of healthy decision-making skills, and enabling the communication of problems and concerns to others. Play therapy allows children to express their feelings in ways that may not be acceptable in other settings thus allowing the clinician to observe and redirect unwanted behavior in a fashion acceptable in other settings.
Play is a natural part of childhood and is important for the development of children. Trained therapists use play therapy to help children express what is troubling them when they are not able to find the words to express their feelings. A positive and trusting relationship is developed between the therapist and child during play therapy sessions, providing the safe space necessary for emotional healing. Through play, therapists can help children learn more helpful behaviors, understand their emotions, and gain insight into interpersonal conflict resolution for optimal development.
Play therapy is a type of therapy for individuals between the ages of 3 to 13 years old that uses different forms of play in a safe environment to uncover any stress or difficulties. Trained play therapists can gain insight into a child’s inner workings through play via different types of play. With the knowledge gained from observing children, therapists can guide children’s behaviors to a certain goal depending on the child and his/her situation. Heritage offers play therapy in the Dallas and the Plano location, play therapy is in high demand due to our renowned clinicians by word of mouth. To check for availability and scheduling please give us a call at (214) 363- 2345.
We are able to work with children in the play therapy room beginning at age three (3). At two (2) years of age this will involve more of a filial counseling with the child in a play therapy setting.
Sessions take place in a safe environment with few limitations, some examples of play therapy include:
Puppets and stuffed animals
Masks and costumes
Arts and crafts
Sand box play
Legos and construction toys
Play therapy has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of ADHD. Studies have been performed from multiple sources to understand the benefits of play therapy on different mental health disorders. In a study performed by Abdollehian E. Et. Al. 2013, the significant differences found between experimental groups and control groups indicate that play therapy can be used to effectively treat children with ADHD.
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