Play Therapy

Play Therapy

Play Therapy: Child Observance and Child Counseling

Play therapy is generally used with children ages 3 to 10. Play provides a way for children to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self healing process. Because children’s experiences are often communicated through play, it becomes an important vehicle to help them know and accept themselves.

Play Therapy, according to the Association for Play Therapy, is the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development. A lay definition might be a form of counseling or psychotherapy that therapeutically uses the power of play to communicate with and help clients, especially children, to achieve optimal mental health.”

Play therapy is often used as tool of diagnosis. A play therapist observes a client playing with toys (play-houses, pets, 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 reasons for behavior both inside and outside the session.

According to the Psychodynamic approach, children will engage in play behaviour in order to work through their anxieties. In this way play therapy can be used as a self-help mechanism, as long as children are allowed time for ‘free play’. From a developmental point of view, play has been determined to be an essential component of healthy child development. Play has been directly linked tocognitive development.

One approach to treatment, is for play therapists use a type of systematic desensitization or relearning therapy to change the disturbing behaviour, either systematically or in less formal social settings. These processes are normally used with children, but are also applied with other pre-verbal, non-verbal, or verbally-impaired persons, such as slow-learners, brain-injured or drug-affected persons. Mature adults usually need much “group permission” before indulging in the relaxed spontaneity of play therapy, so a very skilled group worker is needed to deal with such guarded individuals.

Many mature adults find that “child’s play” is so difficult and taboo, that most experienced group workers need specially tailored “play” strategies to reach them. Competent adult-group workers will use these play strategies to enable more unguarded spontaneity to develop in the non-childish student.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Play Therapy”. –
The Play Therapy article is a stub contributed by ERIC Digest.



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