The Power of Play
Play therapy may initially seem confusing, as it involves children spending part of their therapy session playing. However, it is an extraordinary therapeutic approach. Play is the natural language of children, and therefor has many benefits in the therapeutic process. It also facilitates the creation of a comfortable and trusting relationship between the therapist and child. This is necessary in creating an environment in which the child feels comfortable speaking freely. Within the realm of play therapy, numerous types exist, each tailored to meet the specific needs of a child. However, what unifies them is their profound impact on the lives of our clients.
Child centered play therapy focuses on creating a safe environment for children to express themselves freely. One example involves a therapist who sets up their office with a variety of toys and materials. The child is encouraged to choose what they want to play with, allowing them to play an active role in the session. For example, our fictitious client Sarah, a seven year old girl, struggles with anxiety. Through child centered play therapy, she engages in imaginative play using dolls and miniature figures, creating scenarios where she can assert control and manage her anxious thoughts. Over time, Sarah develops a stronger sense of self confidence and coping skills.
Another type of play therapy can be found in cognitive behavioral play therapy. This type of play therapy works by helping children identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors. The therapist uses play activities to address specific issues or challenges the child is facing. For example, the therapist might use a board game to teach problem solving skills or create a "worry box" where the child can place their anxious thoughts. For example, our fictitious client Jake, is a nine year old boy with anger management difficulties. His therapist uses a sand tray and miniature figures to recreate situations that trigger Jake's anger. Through this play activity, Jake explores alternative responses, develops anger management strategies, and gradually improves his ability to regulate his emotions. Another example can be found in our fictitious client Emily, a ten year old girl diagnosed with ADHD. She engages in play therapy using board games. Her therapist selects board games that require turn taking, strategic thinking, and impulse control. Through playing these games, Sarah learns to manage her impulsivity, improve her attention span, and practice social skills such as patience.
Lastly, expressive arts play therapy is an approach that utilizes the power of various creative modalities, such as art, music, and movement, to facilitate healing and self expression in children. By engaging in these expressive activities, children can tap into their imagination, explore their emotions, and communicate their experiences. For example, our fictitious client Emma, a nine year old girl, has difficulty verbalizing her feelings after experiencing a traumatic event. In expressive arts play therapy, Emma’s therapist provides her with various art materials, including paints, markers, and clay. Emma is encouraged to create artwork that represents her emotions and experiences related to the trauma. Through the process of creation, Emma can externalize and process her emotions. Her art becomes a powerful tool for her to communicate and make meaning of her experiences, allowing her to heal and move forward. At Brightside Behavioral Health, we believe in the therapeutic power of play. Aside from these examples, there are many other types of play therapy, each offering a blend of fun and therapeutic value. All in all, play therapy is a valuable asset in helping children overcome challenges, develop coping skills, and thrive in their emotional well being.