"The challenge of therapy is to serve, to wait with interest and concern for the child to activate the will and to choose to act, to dare to pursue what is present in the way of interest and desire. This calls for unusual patience and an unshakable belief in the child's capacity to find the way, to come to terms with the restraints and tensions of living, a belief in the child's powers to listen inwardly and to make choices that are self-enhancing."
Children naturally use play to work things out for themselves and resolve problems in their everyday lives. They use play as a form of expression and communication, as they do not always have the words to describe their thoughts, feelings and perceptions of their internal and external worlds. Play may be initiated with materials such as paint, paper, clay, sand and miniature toys or figurines, whilst a qualified therapist draws on various techniques to assist the child in making sense of their play. As a treatment it is often combined with parenting coaching sessions in order to help parents support their child’s therapy at home.
Older children generally have a greater capacity to verbalise so therapy may involve more talking than with younger children. Even so, play mediums are usually utilised to some extent. A child may not want to play with dolls or cars but might use clay, drawings, storytelling and so on to express their thoughts and feelings.
Given that children play at every available opportunity you might ask ‘why should I send my child to go play with a therapist?’ Children often find it difficult to understand their complex feelings, let alone express them in words, as well as make logical connections. Therefore the therapist listens to what the child is communicating about his/her view of the world, him/herself and his/her inner conflicts through play and conversations and assists in making sense of and resolving this.
Children also feel freer to express themselves when they are with a therapist, who is not associated with the child’s everyday life. Every adult knows how comforting it can be to speak with an attentive and sympathetic person who is not immediately involved, and the same goes for children. Therefore therapy provides a safe space for children to use play to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as to make sense of themselves, their lives and their struggles.
Play Therapy is an effective tool in assisting children and families who have experienced any of the following issues:
- Social difficulties
- Adjustment to separation and divorce
- Anger and aggression
- Sibling rivalry
- Worry and anxiety
- Self-esteem and identity issues
- Children with learning difficulties
- Adjusting to major life changes
- Separation distress