The Value of Play
Why is the therapist suggesting using play rather than talk? Play is the way that children learn about and explore the world, freely express their thoughts and feelings and develop physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally. Play is not trivial; rather it is one of the most critical elements in healthy child development.
Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
What happens in Play Therapy?
The following are examples of three very different and valid play therapy approaches as described in (“Introduction to Play Therapy” from Play Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Terry Kottman. P. 3 & 4.) Note that this is a small sampling of the many theoretical approaches used by trained play therapists.
Maurice walks into a room in which there is an assortment of toys on the shelves and on the floor—puppets, a doll house and dolls, cars, trucks, a wooden stove and refrigerator, plastic snakes and spiders and many other play materials. He looks around the room, picks up a family of rabbits and starts telling a story about the little rabbit who always gets into trouble and believes no-one cares about him. A woman who is sitting with him talks to him about his play-reflects the feelings of the little bunny, makes comments about what is happening between the little bunny and the rest of the bunny family and stops him when he tries to throw the rabbit out of the window. This is an example of Child Centered Play Therapy, a non-directive play therapy in which the child directs the play, except when limits are needed. This therapy is utilized for many different issues and is not specific to a particular type of problem.
Sally comes into a room with no toys at all. A man there tells her that they are going to play with one another and brings out several different hats and they both try on hats making faces at a mirror. This is an example of Directive Play Therapy for children who are on the autistic spectrum and need specialized help learning to express emotions.
Khalid comes into a room with a few cars and trucks. A woman sitting at a table suggests that Khalid use the cars and trucks to show her what happened when a car crashed into his family. This is an example of another type of Directive Play Therapy, designed to help children work through a specific trauma.
In addition to a child receiving individual play therapy, families are often involved in play therapy. The section on Filial Therapy explains how the parents are thoroughly involved in the play therapy process and become the “healers of their own child.”
Enhance your play therapy skills!
I would be glad to hear from you and to share information about my services: psychotherapy, general supervision for pre-licensed therapist, specialized supervision for therapists working becoming Registered Play Therapists, consultations for experienced therapists and trainings in play therapy and sandtray therapy.