What Is Play Therapy?

Our emotions are complex and varied. As adults, we can have a bit of trouble understanding the emotions rattling around inside us.

For young children, as you can imagine, it’s likely to be even harder as they learn about the big emotions they struggle to recognise, understand how to put a name to what they are feeling, and figure out the thoughts in their mind and what they mean. For young children, navigating all of this can be quite difficult and may not be something we are skilled, as parents, to support them. This is exactly where play therapy comes in.

What Is Play Therapy?

From the outside it may look as though a child is simply playing, but when at play therapy, playing is so much more than building blocks. A trained therapist uses the time with a child to observe them, talk to them, and understand the problem or issue at hand. All the while, the therapist can help, guide, and support the child in exploring their emotions or trauma in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. In building this relationship with a therapist, the child can learn coping mechanisms and develop an understanding of their emotions and behaviours.

What Happens At Play Therapy?

Therapy sessions are always in an environment where the child feels comfortable and safe, and are less formal and structured than therapy sessions we may know as adults. Guided by a therapist, a child may be led to explore role-playing, storytelling, or dance and musical play to help the therapist understand the child and their issue better. Creative and imaginative games using toys, arts and crafts, and puppets or stuffed animals are also a great way to engage with a child, build a connection, and navigate the issue at hand.  

Sensory activities are the perfect way to add play that not only soothes but ignites the five senses allowing children of all ages explore the world them.

Why Use Play Therapy?

Helping a child to understand a situation, handle their emotions, or deal with a mental problem is not always easy for an untrained parent or adult. There can be a divide between us and our children in breaking certain barriers which is why a play therapist can be very beneficial for difficult behaviours, challenging life situations, and other psychological issues.

Benefits Of Play Therapy

Play therapy is a positive and supportive environment in which the child's relationship with their therapist becomes stronger. Together they build trust and understanding leading the child to be more open, verbal, and creative during their time at play therapy. The more comfortable and supported a child is, the better the outcome.

Benefits Include:

  • Greater self-respect and self-worth
  • Lessening of anxiety, stress, or worry
  • Learning to express their feelings and understand their reactions
  • Developing coping strategies and learning to problem-solve
  • Stronger social skills and family relationships
  • Empathy and understanding for others

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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