I meet with a lot of parents who are bringing their children for play therapy, either because they were referred by another child professional, or they figured they would give it a shot to help them with their children’s behavior.
However, most parents do not really grasp what play therapy means or what a play therapist does with a child. So what does a play therapist do during a session?
My favorite explanation is to use the image of adult therapy. I call it the “Couch Explanation.”
When you think of an adult getting counseling, you think of someone sitting on a couch, talking to a therapist who listens to your problems. The counselor may point out patterns they notice in your life, help you reframe certain ideas, reflect your feelings, and even teach you some therapeutic techniques. You would feel you have a a safe place to express yourself, talk about intimate details of your life, and process events that have happened, or are happening, in your life.
When a child comes to play therapy, it is very much the same. Sometimes a child uses words and other times they use play or art to communicate and express thoughts and emotions. Similar to working with adults, a play therapist will reflect a child’s feelings, point out patterns, likes, and dislikes they notice. They may also teach a child techniques that help them identify their feelings, cope with their anger, or socialize at school. And most importantly, the playroom is set up to be a safe place for children to express themselves and process various things in their lives.
For example, a child who is struggling because their parents divorced and they are now living in a new house and going to a new school will definitely need to process all that has happened in order to move on.
As a Registered Play Therapist, I truly believe in the power of play therapy. I have witnessed the benefits and encourage parents to seek out a play therapist if their child is struggling.
Please visit the Association for Play Therapy website for more information on play therapy and Registered Play Therapists.
If you have experience with this as a parent or a professional, I would love to hear other explanations you have found helpful!
You may also like: Bringing Back Old Fashioned Play.