• Play therapy may bring to mind images of toys, games, and fun. And many children do enjoy play therapy!  However, children also learn, communicate, and experience themselves fully through play therapy. It is their way of communicating their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Play therapy is a more effective form of therapy for children because they do not always have the words to express themselves like adults. Adults talk about their thoughts and feelings in therapy.  In a similar way, play therapy utilizes children’s natural mode of expression to help them communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Children don’t have to be taught how to play. 

    Play Therapy Can: 

    • Help children learn more adaptive behaviors
    • Learn how to regulate and express difficult emotions
    • Provide a safe space to process confusing or upsetting experiences 
    • Provide insight and resolution of inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking
    • Provide healing from trauma, loss, or grief experiences

    How Does Play Therapy Work?

    In play therapy, the toys become the children’s words and play is their language. This allows therapists to experience the social and emotional needs of children in the way that is most authentic to children. Therapists reflect and help children to recognize the emotions that they are feeling.  Social skills like turn taking or sharing ideas are practiced.  Additionally, the opportunity to use skills like tolerating boundaries or frustration occur naturally in play.  Children can work on hard things, while receiving the unconditional positive regard that allows them to move through emotions and toward healing. 

    Who Benefits From Play Therapy?

    Play therapy is most appropriate for children ages 3 to 12 years old. However, you might be surprised to learn that the principles of play therapy can also be used with teenagers and even through adulthood! Research shows that play therapy is extremely effective as the primary intervention in a wide variety of circumstances like adoption, recovery from sexual or physical abuse, death of a loved one, medical trauma, social difficulties, and more. In addition, research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities. 

    -By Valary Bond

    1. Dianne Metcalf

      Dianne Metcalf

      June 23, 2021 at 12:20 am

      Thank you for writing this blog and explaining what play therapy is and why it is beneficial for children! Very helpful!