What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is a popular form of psychotherapy used with children. For young children, generally ages three though eleven, traditional talk therapy is not effective. Children have not yet acquired the verbal skills necessary nor the emotional development necessary for success in a traditional talk therapy setting. Play therapy is effective in that it engages children in the one activity that is a central component in their every day lives, play. Children’s play is a skill in which they have mastered due to their use of play on a daily basis. Furthermore, the play environment is one in which they feel comfortable. In any kind of therapy setting, it is imperative that the client feel safe and comfortable. As adults use verbal communication as their direct way of self expression, children use play as their form self expression. I had once read somewhere that “toys are a child’s words and play is their language.” I believe that is an excellent description of a child’s world. Play therapists agree that the best way to diagnosis and treat children’s emotional and behavioral issues is to engage children in imaginary play, as children play out their daily life experiences through their most utilized and comfortable form of self expression, which is play. It is developmentally appropriate and natural for children to express their emotions, fears, anxieties, and concerns through play. Typical childhood issues that are dealt with in a child play therapy setting are depression, anxiety, conduct disorders, ADHD, social problems, and academic problems. It is important that play therapists take the time to build rapport with the child and assure the child that the play therapy setting is a safe place. Play therapists have masters degree or higher and are most often counselors, family therapists, social workers, psychologists, or pediatric nurses. Play therapists use many different toys to stimulate the play therapy process. The most popular toys utilized are sand, art, dolls, puppets, animal figures, doll houses, castles, and ships. Play therapy can be non-directive or directive, the later being a more structured approach to diagnosis and treatment. Child play therapy techniques have been around for many, many years and it is widely agreed that play therapy is an effective tool in working with young children.