Play therapy is a good intervention approach for working with young children who lack the verbal abilities to describe their difficulties clearly enough to receive support and assistance from counselors. This strategy seems to work with children experiencing a broad range of difficulties.
The play therapist must carefully select toys that will help children to express their thoughts and feelings. The arrangement of the toys and the atmosphere in the play
therapy setting must provide comfort and consistency so that children will feel safe in acting out problem situations and relationships.
Although each approach to play therapy has its own philosophy for the process and the selection of toys, the play therapist uses the play therapy process to help children gain a better understanding of how they view themselves, others, and the world and to learn new attitudes to replace self-defeating attitudes. The play therapist chooses toys designed to facilitate this exploration and to help children learn new ways of interacting with others. Play therapy seems to work best with children who have issues surrounding power and control, children with poor self-concepts and social skills and children who have experienced some kind of trauma.
Children lack the cognitive maturity to benefit from talking through their problems. Nor do adult controlled activities give children the feeling of empowerment they can achieve with the voluntary activity of play. In a play therapy session, the child is the director and rule maker. They create a world they can master, practice social skills, overcome frightening feelings, and symbolically triumph over the upsets and traumas that have stolen their sense of well being.
A trained play therapist understands the metaphorical content of a child’s play, and strives to help the child express their needs and discover solutions in a safe, therapeutic environment. Play is the child’s natural method of learning, developing, and expressing their feelings. Play Therapy offers children the opportunity to use the power of their own natural creativity and imagination to heal and grow.
Play therapy takes place in a playroom, specially designed, decorated, and furnished with the toys and equipment children need to use as tools for the dramatic scenes they direct with the therapist. Parents are important allies in the play therapy process and can do much to support and enhance the work their child does in play therapy sessions. Therapists meet regularly with parents to learn what is happening in the child’s life, to share important observations, and to give suggestions on how parents can support their child’s therapy. Although many childhood upsets are healed without the intervention of therapy, play therapy offers children a natural, safe, and non intrusive method to hasten recovery from common distressing events as well as major traumas.
Parents sometimes believe that seeking therapy for their child would indicate parental failure. Although some children have been traumatized by events within the control of parents, many youngsters can benefit from play therapy that experienced situations over which their parents had no control, or were compelled to initiate for the child’s benefit, such as medical procedures. Also, many children who have experienced no trauma of which their parents are aware can dramatically enhance their self-esteem through play therapy. In any case, obtaining the benefits of play therapy for a child is an indication of deep love and concern rather than failure. Indications that a child may benefit from play therapy include: Low self-esteem, Excessive anger, worry, sadness, or fear, Behavior which is immature for the child’s age, Failure to learn or other school problems, behavior which interferes with making friends, Problems with eating, sleep, or elimination, Preoccupation with sexual behavior, Difficulty adjusting to family changes, Talking about not wanting to live, and Excessive shyness. Experiencing trauma such as Chronic illness, Illness or injury of a family member, Divorce or separation of parents, death of a close family member or friend, Disasters such as accidents, fires, or flooding, Hospitalization, birth Trauma, Painful or frightening medical procedures, Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, Witness to domestic violence and Witness to abuse of other children could also be reason for play therapy
The perfect setting for play therapy is a custom-designed playroom. But, it is the rare and lucky counselor who has an opportunity to work in such a setting. Many counselors who use play therapy as a modality for working with children have to
make do with shared quarters or temporary spaces. This should not have an adverse effect on the counselor’s ability to conduct play therapy sessions.
The ideal play room should reflect the personality of the counselor and his or her philosophy about children and play therapy. It should also reflect the particular clientele that he or she serves. Some counselors have very few toys and limited visual stimulation in their play rooms because they work with children who are easily distracted. Other counselors have many costumes and a stage in their play rooms because they,
personally, are dramatic and like to use drama and enactments with their clients. Other counselors who have a need for order and structure, or who have limited space, have
everything built in-shelves, kitchen appliances, sand box.
It is important to be able to provide the child with privacy in the playroom. This does not necessary mean no windows, but if there are windows in the playroom, the child should be able to cover them with some type of curtain or blind. In order to make sure that the child does not feel guilty for making a mess, the wall coverings and floors should be washable. Shelves for the toys need to be secured to the wall, so that an angry child cannot pull them down
The ideal playroom contains a sink with cold running water, but without potentially dangerous hot water. A chalkboard or marker board attached to a wall provides a safe means for self-expression. A small bathroom opening into the play room
can eliminate power struggles about trips down the hall to the bathroom.