What Is Play Therapy?
The Association of Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
Today play therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all applying the therapeutic benefits of play. Play therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships. Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, manifest problem solving skills, and learn how to relate to others in various ways. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expressive thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.
How Does Play Therapy Work?
Play therapy allows trained mental health practitioners who specialize in play therapy, to assess and understand children's play. Play therapy is used to help children cope with emotions and find solutions to problems. By confronting those problems in the clinical Play Therapy setting, children find healthier solutions and allows children to change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve their concerns.
Who Benefits From Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is especially appropriate for children ages 4 through 12 years old.
Play therapy helps children:
- Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
- Develop new and creative solutions to problems
- Develop respect and acceptance of self and others
- Learn to experience and express emotion
- Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others
- Learn new social skills and relational skills with family
- Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities