Play Therapy

Sometimes, children start to display patterns of behaviour that disrupt their lives and the lives of those around them. These behaviours include excessive anger, fear, or worry that may be impacting their development.

Children tend to find a typical therapeutic environment threatening and too formal and, as a result, play therapy is used to help children to communicate at their own level and pace. This helps the child to learn to understand their own emotions and any upsetting experiences that they haven’t had a chance to process.

Play is a natural activity of learning, exploration and communication for children and so, the medium is considered highly effective for helping children to ‘play out’ what they may find difficult to put into words.

Play therapists will work with children of all ages in a safe and trusting environment to help shift perspectives of difficult experiences and increase self-esteem and confidence. They might work privately or within a school or community setting. The main goal of play therapy is to equip the child with healthy coping mechanisms and more adaptive behaviour patterns.

Play therapy is particularly beneficial for children who:

  • are dealing with parental separation, divorce, or conflict
  • have witnessed or been victim to domestic violence
  • are in hospital
  • have been experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • are in care, have been adopted, or have been fostered
  • are dealing with stressful life experiences such as bereavement or the illness of a loved one
  • who have experienced a serious accident or disaster
  • have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Play therapy sessions are typically shorter than regular therapy sessions, lasting between 30-45 minutes. Although one-to-one sessions are the most common form of play therapy, some play therapists do work with siblings or groups of children.

Play therapy rooms will have a large selection of materials including toys such as small figurines and animals, sand and water, musical instruments, dressing up props, puppets, clay, books, and art materials. Some of the techniques that a play therapist might employ include: role play, creative visualisation, therapeutic storytelling, sculpturing, dance and movement, and drawing.

The required number of sessions will differ from child to child, depending on their individual needs.

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