What is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is a form of counseling or therapy that uses play – a child’s natural means of expression – to help children to resolve emotional stress, anxiety or trauma or behavioral problems such as nail biting, bed wetting, aggressive or cruel behavior, or social problems. Play Therapy is based on the idea that children will engage in play behavior to work through their stress, anxiety or trauma.
A play therapist observes the child playing with specially selected materials (toys, play-houses, dolls, etc.) as a way to bring the child’s hidden emotions to the surface where he or she can face them and cope with them. The objects and patterns of play, and the interaction with the therapist, can be used to understand the child’s difficult emotions or behaviors which occur both inside and outside the session.
The play therapy session is a safe and non-judgmental environment for the child. The play therapist accepts whatever the child says or does during play therapy, never expressing displeasure, shock, disagreement, judgment, or telling the child that his or her perceptions are incorrect. In this environment, the child knows he or she can express herself or himself freely. Even though the play therapy atmosphere is permissive, certain limits may have to be imposed, such as restrictions on destroying materials, attacking the therapist, or going beyond a set time limit.
Play therapy sessions normally last 50 minutes. The number of sessions will vary depending on the child’s unique needs and the goals for therapy.