Therapy is a wide-ranging service meant for all types of people going through all kinds of issues. Still, when many people think of seeking therapy, they may incorrectly associate it with issues only adults experience. But traumatic or adverse experiences don’t wait to occur until you reach adulthood.

There are many reasons to seek therapy for a child. Still, understanding the needs and issues of children can be especially difficult. After all, these little ones aren’t fully formed and can have trouble explaining what’s troubling them. Most children simply aren’t equipped to communicate their innermost emotions.

Thankfully, therapists understand this difficulty and have created a form of therapy specifically to help children process their emotions. Play therapy uses play to relax patients and help them better communicate and explore potentially painful topics.

What is Play Therapy?

As you can tell from the introduction, play therapy is a form of therapy created primarily for children. In this therapy, a counselor encourages their client to explore a life event and their feelings concerning that life event through play.

The therapist uses this playtime to observe and gain insights into a an individual’s issues. Then, while playing, a therapist can help the child communicate, explore repressed thoughts and emotions, address unresolved trauma, and more. Therapists can use play to relax patients and help them discuss difficult or painful topics.

Benefits of Play Therapy?

Play therapy has existed for a considerable amount of time. Because of its longevity, numerous studies have shown this therapy’s efficacy. In fact, neuroscience has demonstrated that play is a critical factor for the development of healthy children. And the importance of play only increases for children who have experienced high stress, adverse experiences, or trauma.

Like with EMDR therapy, the activities you do during play therapy help you process difficult or traumatic memories or experiences. Play therapy helps individuals process trauma and adverse experiences by moving these experiences from the nonverbal brain areas to the frontal lobes. The frontal lobes are crucial for the processing of these difficult memories and experiences.

Play therapy can help for a variety of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Medical procedures and chronic illness
  • Development delay or learning disabilities
  • Behavioral issues
  • Family issues such as divorce, separation, or death
  • Natural disasters or traumatic events
  • Anxiety, depression, or grief

How Does Play Therapy Work?

As detailed above, play therapy works by helping children communicate challenging issues and ideas through play rather than verbal communication. The therapist uses play and other activities to observe how the individual expresses their thoughts and feelings they can’t communicate verbally.

There are two primary forms of play therapy: nondirective and directive play therapy. Nondirective play therapy assumes children can resolve their own issues under the correct conditions, including limited instruction and supervision. Directive play uses more input from the therapist to attempt to speed up positive results from play therapy. Regardless of the form, there’s no one way to do play therapy, and therapists can use either or both of directive and nondirective play therapy.

What to Expect from Play Therapy?

As the parent or caregiver to a child in play therapy, you will play an essential role in their treatment. Your child’s therapist will typically want to conduct an intake assessment with you before any actual treatment begins. This assessment helps your therapist decide how to treat your child or guardian best.

During play therapy, it’s also essential for the therapist to pay attention to how the child handles separation from you, how they play by themselves, and how they react upon your return. These observations help the therapist tailor a treatment plan specifically for the child’s individual needs.

Arts & crafts, music, dancing, and storytelling are all examples of tool that may be used during play therapy. On average, play therapy occurs weekly with sessions lasting anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes each.

Play Therapy for Adults?

Play therapy was originally created to help children work through various psychological issues. Still, therapists also use play therapy for teenagers and adults too. As with children, play therapists can help adolescents and adults relearn the value of play and connect this play to resolving traumatic or adverse experiences.

According to Good Therapy, research shows play can help even adults optimize learning, enhance relationships, and improve well-being. Play therapy provides a safe environment for adults and adolescents to help you address serious issues and topics.

Play therapy, for adults and adolescents, is used to treat:

  • Dementia
  • Grief
  • PTSD
  • Obsessions and Compulsions
  • ADHD and ADD
  • Mood Issues
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Developmental Issues
  • Arrested Emotional Development

Is Play Therapy Right for You (or Your Child)?

Like with any form of therapy, the decision to engage in play therapy is entirely up to the individual. Every person requires different treatment, and play therapy may not be the best treatment choice for you or your child. If you (or your child) have a therapist, ask them if play therapy might help. If you’re interested in play therapy but don’t have a therapist, talk to a licensed Compassionate Minds therapist today. Our team of experts can handle any number of issues, including those treated through play therapy. At Compassionate Minds Therapy, we work with each of our patients to create an individual treatment plan that works best for you, at a time that’s most convenient for you.

About the Author Amber Jurgensmeier

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