What is Play Therapy?
“You can learn more from a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato
Play is the language of children. In play therapy the toys are the words, and the play activity is the conversation. The same principles of therapy apply but in a different language. In essence, I am a bi-lingual therapist. Play therapy is the only developmentally appropriate way to work with children. Using exclusively talk-based therapy with children puts them at a disadvantage – their ability to use language is not fully formed until around age eleven.
Play therapy is not just for children, there are family and adult models of play therapy and ways of incorporating play into traditional counseling approaches. Play therapy encompasses a broad range of theories, techniques and styles. One of the most powerful reasons to use play therapy is the neuroscience research on the healing powers of play. Whereas trauma and stress cause damage to the brain, engaging in pleasurable activities has been shown to establish new neurological connections. Play in and of itself is healing!
In play people reveal their experiences, their reactions to their experiences, feelings, wishes and needs. Play allows people to safely explore, express and accept the intensity of their feelings. They gain new insights and can practice different responses to difficult situations within the context of a supportive relationship. The client gains not only awareness but a sense of control and the ability to master their emotional reactions. They can practice taking risks – rehearsing, if you will, for real life changes.
In addition to the benefits of play in therapy, I am a strong advocate for increasing the opportunity to play as a major factor in our overall health, wellness and development. Play is a developmental necessity, and important throughout the lifespan. Research indicates that through play children learn essential social, emotional and intellectual life skills – the very skills they are often sent to therapy to develop!
For more information on play therapy, please visit the Association for Play Therapy Website.