Child Play Therapy

A boy plays with blocks on the floor of all different colors exploring play therapy.

What is Child Play Therapy?

First, child play therapy is an evidence-based practice for working with children in mental health. This type of therapy uses the natural language of children and the power of play to help children process their feelings and experiences. 

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However, child play therapy is not the same as regular, everyday play. Spontaneous play is a natural and essential part of the developmental process. While play therapy is a very specific approach to treating children.

How Play Therapy Helps:

  • Increasing their self-esteem and confidence.
  • Encouraging children to problem-solve their own challenges and build autonomy.
  • Providing a place to speak freely, be seen and understood.
  • Teaching communication skills to connect with others in a positive way.
  • Teaching them to understand their emotions.
  • Finding new skills to calm their bodies and brains.
  • Normalizing their experiences in the world.
  • Helping them feel like they are not alone.

The Natural Language of the Child

Often times children can't articulate their stress or challenges until they are much older. This means we need to be realistic about how our children communicate. 

The natural language of a child is play. 

For example, play allows for expression and learning to happen in the lower more developed parts of the brain, also engaging the higher level cortex (cognitive part which is still developing).  

Play is the way! 

When a child plays, the toys they use are their words. The play is the story. 

The story that is being worked out, processed, and incorporated into their developing brains and psyche. 

Children can communicate and process their experiences through play. 

Furthermore, play therapy is built on a relationship with a therapist who understands children, how their brains work, knows their developmental expectations, and how to best communicate with them (and their parents!) to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working together towards optimal growth.

Play does it all, so encouraging free play and engaging a child in play therapy hold many benefits for long-term gain.

Making Sense of the World

Children are impacted by the world around them in more ways than we know. 

And children are experiencing this global pandemic in ways that only history will tell us. 

Adults frequently hide or shelter children from the news, but we know that whether or not children SEE the news, they know that something is wrong.

Also, they are able to SENSE the stress and impact the world has on their primary caregivers and that alone makes them feel anxious and afraid. 

Children are observing the world around them and trying to make sense of it.

Again, play Therapy offers children a safe place to process those experiences, ask those questions, and make sense of the world around them. It is in play therapy that healing and prevention can occur.

It's important to note that taking care of a child's emotional and psychological world is just as important as caring for the health of their body and teeth.

Lastly, child play therapy is an amazing form of treatment for children of all ages and can be beneficial in helping children work through difficult emotions and experiences. If you believe that play therapy would be helpful for your child and want to find a Play Therapist in your area you can visit the Association for Play Therapy here.

To schedule an appointment with Olympia Therapy click here

This article was written in collaboration with Cary M Hamilton LMHC, RPT-S, NCC, CMHS, CDWF and Sarah Moran LMFT, RPT

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