Play Therapy

Play is the child’s natural form of expression, exploration, and learning. Many children use play as a kind of self-therapy, working out fears and frustration in their own way. When emotional development is disrupted or blocked, children may require the help of a mental health professional who has been trained to develop therapeutic relationships with children through play. The professional provides materials; encourages various play; helps children learn to express feelings appropriately; provides non-punitive firm limits, and helps children develop trust, understanding, and impulse control.

Children lack the cognitive maturity to benefit from solely talking through their problems. Nor do adult controlled activities give children the feeling of empowerment they can achieve with the voluntary activity of play. In a play therapy session, the child is the director and rule maker. They create a world they can master, practice social skills, overcome frightening feelings, and symbolically triumph over the upsets and traumas that have stolen their sense of well-being.

A trained play therapist understands the metaphorical content of a child’s play, and strives to help the child express their needs and discover solutions in a safe, therapeutic environment. Play is the child’s natural method of learning, developing, and expressing their feelings. Play Therapy offers children the opportunity to use the power of their own natural creativity and imagination to heal and grow.

Parents are important allies in the play therapy process and can do much to support and enhance the work their child does in play therapy sessions. It is important for the therapist to meet regularly with parents to learn what is happening in the child’s life, to share important observations with each other about the child, and to give suggestions on how parents can support their child’s therapy.

(Some information in this article was adapted from Kid Power 2003)