Everything you need to know about Play Therapy

Play therapy isn't as well known or widely used in Ireland as it is in some parts of the world but it is a useful tool in helping children deal with emotional problems.

Play therapy isn't as well known or widely used in Ireland as it is in some parts of the world but it is a useful tool in helping children deal with emotional problems. I had never even heard of play therapy until very recently when one of my children was showing worries that made us in turn, worry a little bit. Worries that were just that little bit more than “normal” worries for a child of that age. When my little one started to display signs of anxiety along with it I decided to do some research. I came across play therapy and found personally, that this was the best and most gentle approach for my child.
What is play therapy?
Play therapy is a form of counselling or psychotherapy that uses play to communicate with and help people, especially children, to prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges. This is thought to help them towards better emotional growth and development, and trauma resolution.
Play therapy can also be used as a tool for diagnosis. A play therapist observes a client playing with toys (play-houses, blocks, figures, dolls, etc.) to determine the cause of the disturbed behaviour. The objects and patterns of play, as well as the willingness to interact with the therapist, can be used to understand the underlying rationale for behaviour both inside and outside of therapy session.
It is generally most sucessful with children aged between 3 and 11. It provides a way for them to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. 
As children’s experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important tool for them to know and accept themselves and others.
Why play therapy?
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development.
According to Jean, "play provides the child with the live, dynamic, individual language indispensable for the expression of (the child’s) subjective feelings for which collective language alone is inadequate”
During play, children are helped to meet the essential need of exploring their environment. Play also contributes to strengthen the skill of creative thinking. Play likewise provides a way for children to release strong sentiments making them feel relieved. 
During play, children play out undesirable life experiences by breaking them down into smaller parts, discharging emotional states or frames of mind that go with each part, integrating every experience back into the understanding they have of themselves. 
Understanding what may be causing a change in behaviour in your child is extremely important in order to help your child with some resolution. Often, the child will not even know the issue which is causing their anxiety or worries. Through play it also allows a child’s subconscious thoughts to come to light and it is an essential tool in resolution. 
For more information on play therapy visit the Irish Play Therapy Association's website:
Written by Laura Doyle- Staff Writter at Family Friendly HQ. Laura also blogs at Love, Life and Little Ones. 

Laura Doyle

Mum of four, Gentle parent living on coffee and trying always to stay positive and motivate in the midst of the madness.

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