What is Play Therapy?

Updated: Aug 20

According to Gary Landreth (2002), “Birds fly, fish swim, and children play”. Play is a natural language for children and toys are their words. Adults are comfortable with talking therapy in the sessions; however, it might be hard for children to express their thoughts and feelings in words. Play therapy provides an opportunity for children to work through their difficulties in a permissive situation. Play therapy is especially appropriate for children ages 3 through 12 years old.

Play therapy sessions are usually held in a playroom that has various selected toys and materials. The child has the freedom to choose what toys he/she wants to play with. The therapist may join in the play when the child invites the therapist. It is a great way for the therapist to enter and understand the child’s world to develop a trusting relationship with the child. Additionally, the child can act out any feelings, thoughts, and experiences through play.

Children benefit from play therapy in many ways. Research has found play therapy to be an effective therapeutic approach for different issues such as anxiety, depression, aggression, ADHD, trauma, low self-esteem, grief, relocation, school bullying, domestic violence, sexual assault, and parents' divorce, etc. Children can learn several things in play therapy: self-control and responsible freedom of expression; their feelings are acceptable; to be creative and resourceful in confronting problems; to make choices and to be responsible for their choices; to accept themselves and true experience.

It is hard to explain to the child why he/she is coming to therapy sometimes. The child can be told that he/she will be coming each week to play with ______ in the playroom in order to bring the child for the first session. This can help the child decrease the anxiety to come in for therapy. Consulting with a play therapist to gather more information to see if play therapy would beneficial for your child.

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