Have you ever noticed the joy on children’s faces while they play? Sometimes it seems as though nothing important is happening, however, the complete opposite is actually true! According to Gary L. Landreth, Ed.D., LPC, RPT-S in Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship, “Play is the singular central activity of childhood, occurring at all times and in all places. Children do not need to be taught how to play, nor must they be made to play. Play is spontaneous, enjoyable, voluntary, and nongoal-directed.”
Due to children’s developmental stages, play is the most natural form of communication. Through play, children communicate their thoughts and feelings to others, no matter the setting they are in. Infants do this by engaging in back and forth interactions with their caregivers. Younger children also play this way, however we usually see them starting to utilize objects such as toys or more general items, for example cardboard boxes or pots and pans. Children also use play to make sense of their world and process through difficult emotions or events. One might see this happening through reenactment. For example, children might take care of their baby dolls how their caregivers take care of siblings. They might also reenact more difficult things such as domestic violence, natural disasters, or feeling scared about going to the doctor or dentist. It might not be clear if a child is working through difficulties while they play, especially if it appears they are having fun. Therapy can help with this!
Play Therapy is a great modality for working with children in the therapy room. As defined by The Association for Play Therapy, play therapy is “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.” When working with children, I enjoy using Non-Directive Play Therapy. This allows me to follow the child’s lead while building a therapeutic relationship based on trust. It also allows me to learn the inner world of the child and how they are understanding, or struggling to understand something in their life.
Play is very important for children, young and old! I also encourage adolescents and adults to continue playing throughout their lives as well. If you think your child could benefit from Play Therapy, contact us at Wild Tree Psychotherapy or follow the link below to find a clinician near you who works with children using Play Therapy.
Written by Candace Hanson, MA, LMFT
References: Association for Play Therapy, Inc. (2016). Why Play Therapy? Retrieved from: http://www.a4pt.org/page/WhyPlayTherapy
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