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Understanding Play Therapy

small female child smiling as she interacts with toys during play therapy

Play therapy is a therapeutic approach for children aged 3 through 12 that allows for the expression of repressed thoughts and emotions through play. For children who do not express themselves well through verbal communication, but instead through play activities, play therapy may be the best choice. Play therapy is a structured method of therapy that builds on the communicative and learning processes of children. It is often used for children who are undergoing or have witnessed hospitalization, domestic violence, trauma, or other stressful events in their lives. It can also be beneficial for children with behavioral or social problems, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, or who are on the autism spectrum. The Association for Play Therapy notes that play is as important to human happiness as love and work are, and some of the greatest thinkers of all time have reflected on why play is so fundamental in our lives. Play elevates our spirits, regulates our emotions, and brightens our outlook on life. It also relieves stress and boredom and positively connects us to people. Through play, children learn about themselves and their relationships to the world around them. They learn how to communicate with and relate to others as well as express feelings and develop problem solving skills. Often when a child uses up their own problem solving tools they misbehave and may act out at home or at school. By confronting problems in a clinical setting, children can find healthier solutions. Check out The Association for Play Therapy for more information on the science behind play therapy. After the initial intake interview with the parent, a therapist will normally have a separate interview with the child. This helps the therapist decide the best approach and course of action for the child. Normally play therapy takes place in a safe and comfortable setting. Imposed limits to the child are kept to a minimum to encourage freedom of expression, allowing the therapist to observe the child’s decisions and play style. The goal of play therapy is to help children express themselves in healthier ways and to discover more positive ways to solve problems. When looking for a play therapist, ensure that the therapist has the appropriate educational background and experience. Look for therapists who are well-trained in child development and utilize a recognized child-centered approach. For questions or more information related to health and wellness, contact us.