Many parents are curious about play therapy and its effectiveness. We’ve all watched our children play before and it doesn’t seem like there is anything particularly amazing or revolutionary about it. If you look closer at how the child is interacting with peers, what the themes of their play are, and how they use creativity and imagination, you can see how much more they can express during play rather than just sitting and talking. For example, it’s much easier to have a doll or puppet feel sad, angry, or scared than it is to talk about those feelings directly. Play therapy has been around since the 1940’s, and much research has been done regarding its effectiveness. Children who participate in play therapy in its many forms can develop better social and communication skills, emotional regulation, and confidence as well as heal from traumatic experiences. The types of Play Therapy used at Summer Counseling are below:
- Non-Directive Play Therapy occurs when the child chooses what they do in the therapy room, with no direction from the therapist. The therapist then asks questions, notes and labels emotions, and comments on the child’s choices and interactions. This allows the child to express him or herself the easiest way they know how-through play. The therapist sets the rules in the play room regarding safety, but the child controls what happens in the session. This is often used at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship to help develop trust, in instances of trauma, or when a child has difficulty expressing or talking about feelings.
- Directive Play Therapy occurs when the therapist makes suggestions for options in play therapy. The most common are suggestions surrounding family, friends, school, and life events. That discussion can happen in several different ways: with dolls, animals, houses, sand box, and other toys, with puppets, via art, during a game, or verbally.
- Experiential Therapy often includes social stories (via books, worksheets, and sometimes videos) and role play activities. Children may have social skills training sessions, depending on their needs. These can include time with siblings to help with problem solving and conflict resolution, learning to be a good sport and take turns, learning self-regulation and how to follow directions better, or learning how to make and develop friendships.
- Narrative Therapy is the process of telling your story through words and pictures. Children and teens who have experienced trauma may be asked to create a (confidential) book to help them process their trauma and healing journey.