Will Play Therapy Help my Child?
If you’ve ever wondered how playing could possibly help address you’re child’s struggles you’re in the right place!
The foundation of play therapy is based on the understanding that a child’s language is play; children naturally use play as a tool to process everyday circumstances. Play therapy provides an avenue for children to both process and heal from difficult life experiences with sustainable healthy changes.
Play therapy is a unique form of counseling that allows children to express their feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors through play. We do not even to begin to engage in cognitive processing until 7 or 8 years of age and this skill continues to develop until age 25. Since children have not developed this part of their brain, play is their natural language and the way they process their world and bring healing into their lives.
How Does Play Therapy Work?
Play Therapy operates on the principle that play is the child’s way of communicating. Children often find it hard to express their feelings verbally, and play provides them an age appropriate alternative. It is a non-threatening tool to communicate and process their feelings. In play therapy, toys are symbolic of the child’s words, and play is how they invite us into their world. In a safe environment a trained play therapist is able to support the child to understand their emotions and behaviors better, while supporting them in working through various challenges.
Play therapy is particularly beneficial for children struggling with anxiety and other mental health problems. Through play, children can confront and process their fears in a safe space. They can explore different coping mechanisms and learn to regulate their feelings of anxiety, grief, sadness and more. Play Therapy also helps them build self-confidence, resilience, and problem-solving skills, which are all essential tools in managing life stressors.
Play Therapy is also extremely beneficial in helping children heal from grief or a a traumatic event. When we experience a highly stressful event, our brain goes into fight or flight. A more in depth explanation of this is that the language part of our brain (the verbal and processing side) shuts down and the part of our brain that controls our automatic nervous system(the sensory side of the brain-body temperature, heart rate, breathing etc.) completely takes over so that we can use every ounce of energy to survive. Because our brain operates in this manor during times of stress, trauma is a sensory experience. Because trauma is a sensory experience, the best way to heal trauma is through sensory based interventions. This is why EMDR has been so successful in treating trauma in adults. For child survivors of trauma, play therapy is the best treatment method because it is both in their native language and allows for the sensory processing needed to heal trauma.
Play therapy is a powerful tool in addressing various emotional and behavioral challenges in children. It allows children to share their story in a safe and non threatening way. Therapist trained in play therapy can validate, interpret, and engage in the child’s play therapeutically to help the child heal. If you think your child might benefit from play therapy, do not hesitate to reach out to learn more about how we can support you and your child.
How are Sessions Structured?
We typically recommend weekly sessions as you will see the best results and see results sooner with this level of consistency, however, some families choose to do every other week sessions due to financial or scheduling barriers. Sessions are 50 mins long and we typically meet with parents at the beginning of each session to check in, see how the week is going, give feedback, and allow parents to ask questions. We believe parents are a key factor in their child’s healing process and we want to give parents tools and support in helping their child heal.
What is a Registered Play Therapist?
A Registered Play Therapist (RPT) has undergone extensive specialized education, training, and field experience. A RPT is a licensed mental health professional who has earned a Master’s or Doctorate degree in a mental health field with considerable general clinical experience and supervision. In addition to their general clinical experience they have also earned over 150 hours of advanced, specialized training, experience, and supervision in play therapy.
A Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPT-S) has completed all requirements to become an RPT plus an additional 500 hours of play therapy, 30 hours of training in supervision , and addition continue education and training in Play Therapy.
How Long Does Play Therapy Typically Take?
Each play therapy session consists of 50 minutes. Sessions typically occur weekly. A 10-15 minute parent check-in is expected at the beginning of each session for children 12 and under. Research suggests that it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions for the child to resolve their problems, however some children may improve much faster while more serious or ongoing problems may take longer to treat.