Every child is unique and special but sometimes they experience problems with feelings or behaviours that cause disruption to their lives and the lives of those around them. Parents and carers often worry when a child has a problem that causes them to be sad, disruptive, rebellious, unable to cope or inattentive. You may be concerned about a child’s development, eating or sleeping patterns and how they are getting along with family, friends and at school.
Play therapy helps children understand confused feelings and upsetting events. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, as adult therapy usually expects, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace. It is a developmentally appropriate intervention.
Play therapy helps children work through emotional, social and behavioural difficulties and also helps address family problems. It uses the medium of play, rather than talk, to help the child learn to express themselves, explore and make sense of the world in which they live, resolve difficulties and achieve more mature levels of social and emotional development. Psychotherapists who specialise in play therapy use play therapy as the medium to help clients who may have experienced complex and painful life events which may include disrupted relationships, significant loss, trauma or abuse. Such children may be struggling with emotional and/or behavioural problems, relationship difficulties, and distress.
In Play therapy, the therapist strategically utilises play to help children express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings (Gil, 1991). In play therapy, toys are like the child’s words and play is the child’s language (Landreth, 2002). Through play, therapists may help children learn more adaptive behaviors when there are emotional or social skills deficits (Pedro-Carroll & Reddy, 2005). The positive relationship that develops between therapist and child during play therapy sessions can provide a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing (Moustakas, 1997). Play therapy may also be used to promote cognitive development and provide insight about and resolution of inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking in the child (O’Connor & Schaefer, 1983; Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2005).