Play therapy is a therapeutic approach that is designed to help children using their most powerful means of communication – play (Ray, 2011). It is a recognised form of therapeutic intervention with children (Carmichael, 2006) that has been proven to be effective in helping children deal with mental health and behaviour related difficulties (Ray, 2006).
There are a multitude of approaches to play therapy, using different therapeutic models. The play room is designed according to these models, as are the toys and other items that are selected for use in the play room.
Parents are seen as co-therapists, and an essential part of the therapeutic process. For this reason, I typically will meet with the parent/s, or caregivers, first, without the child present. This is called our intake session, and gives us a chance to get to know each other, talk about your concerns and reasons for coming to therapy, and establish the goals that you would like to achieve during our time together.
Children typically attend play therapy sessions once a week, at the same time and usually on the same day. This helps to keep the routine and enough processing time between sessions. Some children may only need to come on a short term basis, whilst others may need a slightly longer time. This depends on the reasons that the child is coming for play therapy, what their resources and support system are like, and what their trauma exposure has been.
Play therapy isn’t just about the playing, the emphasis is on the therapy part.
Due to their developmental abilities, play therapy is seen as the most effective means for children to communicate, which is then facilitated by a trained professional, following theoretical guidelines and approaches that are designed for working in this way with children. It is gentle, with an element of fun, and a big focus on building relationships and trust. It is essential that children learn to feel safe, and heard during the process of play therapy.
Some of the things you may find in my playroom include:
- Miniatures (small figurines)
- Creative expressive art mediums
- Dress up clothes
- Fantasy play