About Child Play Therapy
"Children's play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import." - F. Froebel
All children encounter hurdles in life, but some children need more help than others in getting over them. If your child is experiencing difficulty at home, with peers, at school, on sports teams or other community activities, therapy gives him/her an opportunity to work through these difficulties in personally meaningful ways. Play Therapy is a highly researched and effective modality for working with children.
Play Therapy is a developmentally sensitive therapeutic modality in which a trained play therapist uses the therapeutic powers of play to help children prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.
Below, you will find descriptions involved in the practice of Child-Centered Play Therapy, Parent-Child Play Therapy and Family-Child Play Therapy.
Child-Centered Play Therapy is an evidence-based approach for preventing and resolving children's psychosocial difficulties. Studies have consistently demonstrated it's effectiveness with a broad range of children's problems.
Child-Centered Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. A child's primary language is not verbal. Toys are their words, and play is their language. Children's behaviors are frequently an expression of what's going on inside them. Child-Centered Play therapy gives children an opportunity to make sense of their thoughts, feelings, and life experiences in a way that is comfortable, safe, and non-threatening. In the process, children also frequently learn to develop greater trust in themselves, their abilities, and their relationships.
In the process of growing up, children's problems are often compounded by the inability of adults in their lives to understand or to respond to what children are feeling and attempting to communicate. What many adults think children are saying, they aren't. What we think they are hearing, they aren't. Thus, children often feel isolated with their problems, shut off from the significant adults in their lives whom they perceive as not caring because these adults seem not to understand.
We hear a lot today about the communication gap that exists between adults and teenagers. The real communication gap exists between adults and children. We wouldn't have a communication gap with teenagers if adults had learned how to communicate with them when they were children. The communication gap we have with children is widened as a result of adult's insistence that children adopt that means of expression commonly used by adults. Children are trying desperately to make themselves understood. However, they are often not successful through entirely verbal means.
Play is to the child what verbalization is to the adult. It is a medium for expressing feelings, exploring relationships, and self-fulfillment. In short, it is the child's natural medium of self-expression. Most adults are able to put their feelings, frustrations, anxieties, and personal problems into some form of verbal expression. Children, though, often experience considerable difficulty when required to delve into their problems through reliance on a similar verbal process. However, in an understanding, caring, and permissive relationship that says to children, "This is a safe place", they will play out their feelings in a manner that is somewhat similar to the ways adults talk out their problems. Play therapy, therefore, is to the child what counseling or psychotherapy is to the adult.
For most children, Child-Centered Play Therapy is a unique experience where an accepting adult is truly interested in understanding them. The counselor is sensitive to the needs and feelings of the child expressed in play or verbally, and responds with real understanding in such a way that the child is aided in his struggle to be himself and to understand. This encounter with an adult who emphatically understands and really cares about the child as a person and as an individual helps the child to explore with greater openness all of his feelings about himself, other children, adults, and his sometimes bewildering little world. This exploration is undertaken by the child because he is allowed to explore through that means most appropriate for him - PLAY.
Parent-Child Play Therapy (Filial Therapy):
Strives to enhance a child-parent relationship by empowering the parent with new and innovative ways to interact with their child. This unique form of therapy provides an environment in which the child receives concentrated attention from the parent, thus lessening the anxiety of the child and allowing him or her to unlearn behavior patterns that lead to miscommunication. Parents are given the skills necessary to practice effective listening and respond to a child's emotions as well as tools to help encourage the enhancement of the child's self-esteem. Therapists teach the parents how to set therapeutic limits and utilize principles of play therapy, at-home sessions, and how to provide an authentically accepting and understanding atmosphere in which their child will find security to explore their own emotions and the relationship with their parent.
Family-Child Play Therapy:
Since children's most natural form of communication is through play, Family-Child Play Therapy allows children to express themselves more easily than traditional family talk therapy. Family-Child Play Therapy moves treatment from the intellectual, cerebral, abstract world familiar to adults, to the world of imagination, spontaneity, metaphor, and creativity that is familiar to children (Bailey and Sori, 2000). When family members engage in arts or play-based therapeutic activities, they often express thoughts and feelings that they otherwise may not feel comfortable expressing. Art and play-based activities can unlock deeper levels of communication between older and younger family members. Play and arts therapies differ from traditional "talk therapy" in that they engage emotions in a direct and physical way, generate creative energy as a healing force, and creatively enable children and families to express their problems and conflicts (Malchiodi, 2005).